France ‘to suspend fuel tax hikes’ after violent protests

The French government is preparing to suspend fuel tax increases in the wake of violent protests against the measures, according to Reuters news agency and local media.

A government source told Reuters that Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was due to announce the suspension later on Tuesday.

Daily newspaper Le Monde, also citing government sources, said the suspension will last “several months” and will be accompanied by other measures aimed at appeasing the so-called “yellow vest” protesters.

The move marks President Emmanuel Macron’s first significant U-turn on a major policy since he assumed office in 2017.

The “yellow vests” protests, which started on November 17, were focused on denouncing a squeeze on household spending brought about by Macron’s taxes on diesel, which he says are necessary to combat climate change and protect the environment.

However, they have since evolved into a bigger, general anti-Macron uprising, with many criticising the president for pursuing policies they claim favour the richest members of French society.

Protests in Paris on Saturday turned particularly violent, with the famed Arc de Triomphe defaced and avenues off the capital’s Champs Elysees suffering damage.

The demonstrations have been given the “yellow vest” tag due to the fluorescent jackets kept in all vehicles in France, and the protests are estimated to have cost millions to the economy.

Philippe was scheduled to meet on Tuesday with moderate members of the movement, but representatives cancelled the talks citing “security reasons”.

Jacline Mouraud and Benjamin Cauchy, two of the leaders of the protests, told AFP they had received threats from hardline protesters who warned them against entering into negotiations with the government.

Macron and Philippe’s approval ratings hit new lows in the wake of the protests, according to an Ifop-Fiducial poll for Paris Match and Sud Radio that was published on Tuesday.

The president’s approval rating fell to 23 percent in the poll conducted late last week, down six points on the previous month. Philippe’s rating fell 10 points to 26 percent.

The president’s score matches the low charted by his predecessor Francois Hollande in late 2013, according to Paris Match. Hollande was then considered to be the least popular leader in modern French history.

Source: Al Jazeera and News Agencies