Is this the start of the end of the gilets jaunes
The government was on Sunday hoping the sharp drop in gilets jaunes demonstrators signalled an end to protests which have plunged President Macron into the biggest crisis of his presidency.
Around 66,000 protesters turned out again on Saturday for a fifth round of anti-government demonstrations, which sprung up over fuel tax hikes last month.
The figure was about half the number of the previous weekend, suggesting “the end of a cycle of mobilisation”, according to Jerome Saint-Marie of pollsters Pollingvox.
“One stage is behind us, certainly, and I think that this is in everybody’s interest, including the gilets jaunes,” Education Minister Michel Blanquer said.
Although the drop in protesters suggested the momentum of the movement was waning, sociologist Herve Le Bras from the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) said they would leave a bitter legacy .
“It is calming down but what remains of it all is a strong feeling of hatred towards Macron,” he said.
A major poll by the Ifop group published in Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed Macron’s approval rating had slipped another two points in the last month, to 23 percent.
The proportion of people who declared themselves “very dissatisfied” by his leadership jumped by six points to 45 percent.
In Paris on Saturday, more than 8,000 police on duty easily outnumbered the 2,200 protesters counted by local authorities.
Tear gas was occasionally fired, but only a fraction compared with the weekends of December 8 or December 1 when graffiti was daubed on the Arc de Triomphe in scenes that shocked France.
Richard Ferrand, the head of the National Assembly, welcomed the “necessary” weakening of Yellow Vest rallies on Saturday, adding that “there had been a massive response to their demands”.
He added that this was now the time for dialogue.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner called on protesters to halt their blockades across the country which have disrupted traffic and businesses.
“Everyone’s safety has to become the rule again,” he tweeted. “Dialogue now needs to unite all those who want to transform France.”
Castaner said eight people had died since the start of the movement.
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