Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Abdelrahim Ali
Abdelrahim Ali

The yellow jacket crisis and options of President Macaron

Sunday 09/December/2018 - 09:19 PM

Since the protests of the yellow jackets began on Saturday, November 17, in protest against the imposition of taxes on fuel under the plan of President Emmanuel Macron for economic reform, there has been great confusion and lack of political experience in the management of the crisis by the president's team, especially his political party, the Republican Party. The Party has completely disappeared from the scene until the moment and leaves the president alone facing the street without any kind of protection.

A close observer of the scene had to watch the snowball as it rolled to deepen the way the crisis shifted from clear economic demands to a serious political and social crisis. That has narrowed the options presented to the President and gave an opportunity for political opponents at home and abroad to exploit the crisis and increase its severity.

The protests began by calling for the cancellation of the planned increase in fuel taxes, and it soon became the result of the inexperienced administration of the crisis as protesters started to demand the fall of the president himself or halt the implementation of his economic program, which would eventually mean his political assassination.

Macron options

President Macron appeared to have only four main options.
The first option is to resort to a public referendum on his policies to replicate General De Gaulle's experience in the face of student protests in 1968, in which case the loss is predicted by 80%. That is the percentage that supported the demands of yellow jackets.

The second option is the dissolution of the National Assembly in preparation for legislative elections leading to the confirmed victory of one of the opposition parties or an alliance between two main parties, the National Rally Party, led by Marine Le Pan, and La France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The formation of a co-existence government, as the experiences of Presidents Francois Mitterrand in 1986 with Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and in 1993 with Prime Minister Eduard Baldur and President Jacques Chirac in 1997 with Prime Minister Jospin

This co-existence undermines the full powers of the President of the Republic with regard to domestic policies in favor of the new Prime Minister, who has a different program from the President's program and is required in consultation with the Prime Minister on foreign policy and defense issues. This can put an end to Macron’s entire political future, but in return gives the president a kiss of life for three years to come.

The third option is the dissolution of the government of Adward Philip and form a government of national unity headed by a strong member of the left or right as it was possible . There is news about the government of Francois Bayrou (center-right) or of Jacques-Yves Loudrian (center-left), in addition to appointed ministers from various currents. If this option success it will allow Macron be in touch with his grassroots base, and will maintain his political influence. Before the next presidential election.

The fourth option in front of President Macron is maneuvering and trying to gain time through his speech on Monday at the latest, in which he tries to restore the situation to the point of zero, but he will risk watching the burning of France next Saturday (December 15).  This what was observed by his veteran Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who made statements to France's RTL station, saying that the current situation in France calls for serious national debate not for deceit or procrastination, but for finding solutions, otherwise the price will be high.

Le Drian, who is considered to be the most outspoken member of the Macron government, knows that he has experience in politics locally and internationally. President Macron is now aware of the need not to ignore parties and state institutions or impose solutions from supreme institutions. He stressed that it is time to engage the people who live in France, in reference to the French territories outside the capital Paris, in the community and political dialogue.

The truth is that even though one of the most important members of the Macron government is aware of the crisis, even if Macron wanted it, it would be expensive, because there are many external and internal elements that have engaged in the crisis to ensure its continuity and to try to deepen it.

Factors of crisis:

No one contributed to the creation of this crisis, of course, but Macron and his policies that angered the majority of the French people. However, after more than two weeks of the protests, many agencies and countries began to overlap on the crisis.

In the forefront of the order are:
Turkey - Erdogan: He is trying to assure Europe that he is a key player in any event that happens on its territory, through the Turkish groups and associations in France, and the suburbs of Paris specifically, whose cadres participate strongly in the protests.

Iran: Iran wants to retaliate from Macron after he announced in recent months to arrest terrorist cells belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and issued strong warnings to Iran, to stop tampering with French territory and canceled his visit to Tehran, which was to be held in April.

Qatar: Qatar has been badly affected by France's support for Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Macron's government has been positive about Egypt's dealings with Rafal and aircraft carriers, and welcomed Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed with great pleasure, announcing a long-term French-Emirati partnership. It also did not take an opposing stance against Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, in contrast to what Qatar wanted, with regard to the Khashoggi issue.

The right wing of the European Union: It supports French right-wing movements and antagonizes Macron's policies, especially with regard to the EU position.

US President Donald Trump: He supports Marine Le Pan against Macron as the French president tries to lead the European Union against US interests at a time when Le Pan wants to leave the EU, which serves Trump and his direction.


A former minister of the economy, Macron turned into a political phenomenon, especially after quitting his ministerial post in August 2016.

He founded the "Forward" Movement. This was why the French right described him as an "agent". Right-wing politicians viewed him also as their most fierce rival who could prevent their candidate, Francois Fillon, from reaching the presidency.


The Socialist Party viewed Macron as a new "Brutus". Brutus the Younger was the politician of the late Roman Republic who took a leading role in the assassination of Julius Caesar who helped him through most of his political career.


By running for the presidency, the Socialist Party said, Macron deceived the former French president Francois Hollande who appointed him as economy minister in 2014. Holland initially appointed Macron as a presidential advisor in 2012.


Nevertheless, in August 2016, Macron decided to quit the government in his pursuit of the highest office in France. In doing this, he did not ponder the consequences of running against a president who helped him come under the spotlight on the French and European stages. This explains why Hollande was the first French politician to meet those wearing the yellow vests on the streets of Paris and declare sympathy with their demands.


Macron's reforms

Macron came to office and brought with him a huge package of economic and political reforms. His aspired economic reforms included reforming the job market and getting rid of fossil fuels. The reforms also included modernizing the education system and raising social taxes which affected the living conditions of most French citizens. Macron also wanted to abolish the solidarity tax on wealth, which used to benefit the rich only.


The French president did not stop here. He also wanted to reshape the political life by sidelining the two main political groups, namely the Republicans and the Socialists.


He wanted these two main groups to be replaced with the "Forward" movement which he founded a year before the presidential elections in 2017. The movement evolved into a political party when Macron was elected president. The party was then called "Republic on the Move".


Forward Movement

This is a political movement that leans neither toward the left nor toward the right. It was founded by Macron in 2016 so that it could be his springboard to the French presidential palace.

Macron launched the movement on April 6, 2016 in the northern French city of Amiens where he was born.


This happened before Macron announced his bid to run for the French presidency.

When launching the new movement, Macron said he consulted his friends beforehand. The movement was heavily covered by the media. It also received support from French political celebrities and members of parliament.


The movement succeeded in attracting a large number of French youth, intellectuals and businessmen. It also attracted some politicians from the left and the right, who declared their support of Macron in the 2017 presidential elections.


The movement also received support from outside France, especially from those backing European unity.


Nonetheless, good intentions do not always yield good results. The new movement destroyed the equilibrium of French political life, one that depended on the presence of a government and an opposition. 


Macron threw his full weight behind the new movement. It succeeded in winning 309 seats out of a total of 588 up for grabs in the parliamentary elections. This helped the movement hold the majority of seats in the French parliament.

Macron depended on the movement in crushing political opposition to him. He, however, pays dearly for this now.


The formation of the moment was a bizarre idea from the beginning. The movement wanted to speak for French citizens. At the same time, it relied heavily on the French president. This was why it turned into a virtual bubble that depended on the weight of the French president himself.

The same movement then turned into a political party that had no competitors on the French political stage. This was particularly so after the weakening of the Socialist Party and the rifts that appeared within the Republican Party.


Yellow vests

The ongoing yellow vests demonstrations came while France suffered the aforementioned political vacuum. The demonstrations erupted after the French government decided to impose new taxes on fuel in the light of Macron's presidential program. The program aspires to move France into the age of clean energy on the road to suspending the use of fossil fuels.

Macron seems not to have learned any lessons from history. Most revolutions erupted in France after the government imposed new taxes.


The young flamboyant president seemed to have overlooked the French taxes complex. The same complex gave Macron's predecessors a lot of hard time.


Macron committed a mistake by overlooking the protests, especially because most of the demonstrators came from villages far away from the French capital.


To the president's dismay, 80% of French citizens expressed backing to the protests. All French political parties failed to contain the protests.


The right-wing politician Marine Le Pen is now the most influential figure for the demonstrators. She directs them toward the Champs Elysees.


The crisis uncovers Macron's main weakness, namely the youth of his party. They are divided and lost. There is no political force on the French political stage that is capable of containing the anger on the streets. This leaves the French president without any cover in front of the French public opinion. Will this last for long? The coming few days will tell.

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