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April 16, 2019

Macron set to fix ‘Yellow Vest’ anger


April 16, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron was to make a series of major policy announcements on Monday in response to five months of nationwide "yellow vest" protests, in what has been billed as a make-or-break moment for his presidency.

Yet the task of trying to satisfy the many, sometimes competing demands coiled up in the protests will be a tricky one for the 41-year-old leader, who was elected two years ago on promises of sweeping changes.

His reform drive was abruptly knocked off course by the yellow vests, whose movement erupted in November over social inequality. Macron responded by embarking on a major voter-listening exercise between January and March called the "great national debate", in which grievances were aired during thousands of town hall-style meetings and on an official website.

"We have decided to transform the anger into solutions," Macron wrote on Twitter. "For several months you told us what you think and we heard... (Monday) night I will respond to you."

The centrist will give a speech at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) Monday setting out the "first concrete measures", the presidency told AFP.

One of Macron’s aides told AFP that the country could look forward to "a new act" marked by "profound changes" aimed at drawing a line under the enduring and often violent anti-government protests.

Summing up the weight of anticipation on Macron’s shoulders, Senate leader Gerard Larcher, a member of the opposition Republicans, told Le Figaro newspaper: "He won’t get a second chance."

French media said the content of Macron’s speech could determine whether he wins re-election in 2022. "Macron’s five years is at stake," said Le Figaro on Monday, adding that the head of state has "no room for error".

Left-leaning Liberation said Macron had to decide whether to side with conservative supporters or placate those demanding greater solidarity between rich and poor. In one of the most important weeks of the president’s career, he is also due to hold a press conference at the Elysee on Wednesday, an unusual move for a man who has kept his distance from the French media. What Macron intends to announce has been kept under wraps.

He has much work to do if he is to convince French citizens outside his narrow support base that he really cares about them. According to an Ifop poll published on Sunday, 85 percent of French think that Macron should pay greater attention to their concerns.

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