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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 April 2019

Emmanuel Macron to announce outcome of nationwide debate

Protesters have taken to the streets for the 22nd consecutive weekend of mobilisation

Protesters from the 'Gilets Jaunes' (Yellow Vests) movement clash with French riot Police during the 'Act XXII' demonstration - the 22nd consecutive national protest in Toulouse, France, on 13 April 2019. EPA
Protesters from the 'Gilets Jaunes' (Yellow Vests) movement clash with French riot Police during the 'Act XXII' demonstration - the 22nd consecutive national protest in Toulouse, France, on 13 April 2019. EPA

French president Emmanuel Macron is expected this week to announce his conclusions after three months of nationwide debate aimed at placating violent protests against his reformist agenda.

As Mr Macron prepares to announce his five-point plan, protesters have taken to the streets for the 22nd consecutive weekend of mobilisation.

A rally called for by the gilet jaunes in Toulouse, the capital of France’s southern Occitan region, drew over 31,000 protesters – up from last week’s 22,300 participants.

Eight hundred policemen were deployed to the area to contain the protesters, who built barricades and attempted to push through to the city centre. Police forces responded with teargas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the crowd.

The government’s refusal to authorise protests in Paris did not prevent the gilets jaunes from pouring into the Champs-Elysées, the upper-class shopping quarter that has been the theatre of violent clashes.

A highly-criticised provision – dubbed the “anti-thugs” law – has come into force on April 11. It enables the government to refuse authorisation if a rally is deemed to pose “a particularly grave threat to public order.”

According to the interior ministry, at least 5,000 people took to the streets of Paris despite the lack of authorisation.

Demonstrations in the Champs-Elysées have damaged shops and businesses in the area. Around 72,600 people in 5,000 companies are estimated to have been forced to work reduced work hours for reduced pay since the yellow vest protest movement started on November 17.

Rights groups including Amnesty International, however, are opposed to the law as it encroaches on freedom of speech and the right to protest. Amnesty International, Attac, UNEF, SOS Racisme and others staged a protest on Saturday to express their dissent.

Against this backdrop, Mr Macron is set to announce his plan to reconcile the nation. According to an internal source quoted by French newspaper Le Monde, the president may present his five-point plan as soon as Sunday or Monday evening.

The president’s proposal around the issue of taxation – which was the spark that ignited the protests five months ago – will be the most scrutinised.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said taxes – and how to “lower them faster” – will be at the heart of the president’s announcement.

Updated: April 14, 2019 05:44 PM

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