Macron calls for national debate

In view of the ongoing yellow vest protests French President Macron has announced in a "Letter to the French" that he wants to engage in dialogue with the population. Thirty-five topics ranging from taxes to democracy and environmental protection to immigration are to be discussed in open forums throughout the country. What are the chances of this attempt at reconciliation succeeding?

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Bid to overcome suicidal dialectic

Macron's letter provides a platform for a debate whose success the president can't guarantee on his own, Le Figaro comments:

“The text has the considerable merit of seeking to overcome a suicidal dialectic and restore a basic element of democracy: social dialogue. ... First off he stresses that violence immediately puts an end to such a dialogue - and that is anything but superfluous. ... In addressing far-reaching issues and calling on the people to express themselves as they see fit, the president is asking them to calmly and serenely say what they have to say. Like in Asterix's village there will be quarrels and excesses. Nevertheless the success of this major debate depends on each and every one of us - and in particular on our desire to understand before we judge.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Popular anger cannot be tamed

Der Standard sees no chance of the debate succeeding:

“Politically, Macron is weakened. He only has a chance if he takes the concerns of the yellow vests seriously instead of just pretending. If he disappoints the expectations he has awakened, he will provoke another wave of popular anger. ... Macron is in a bind: what the yellow vests demand effectively amounts to a restriction of his powers. The demand for 'civil referendums' is completely at odds with the French central state. The government is therefore already trying to take the most explosive topics such as immigration out of the purview of the popular initiative law. However, if Macron dilutes the instrument any further, the yellow vests will feel cheated. New violence could take hold of the nation. And Macron may soon wish he had never launched the national debate.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

People and president talking at cross purposes

On Friday the president received a group of bakers at the Elysée Palace and praised them for their willingness to make an effort, which he said many other French citizens lacked. This could further inflame the conflict with the yellow vests, Gazeta Wyborcza notes:

“On the day before the wave of protests on Saturday Macron asserted that many French people think they can get many important things with little effort. He added that one should not forget that above and beyond their rights, the people also have duties. The yellow vests' major demands revolve around a fairer division of labour, fewer taxes and pay hikes. In the eyes of the demonstrators the problem isn't that they don't make sufficient effort, but that there's a lack of appreciation for the efforts they make.”