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    Macron’s Referendum to End Yellow Vests Protests Merely a ‘Gimmick’ - Journo

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    French President Emmanuel Macron is reportedly expected to call for a nationwide referendum in May to reduce the size of government in an effort to stem increasingly large Yellow Vest protests across the country.

    Gilbert Mercier, editor in chief of News Junkie Post and the author of "The Orwellian Empire," joined Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear Monday to discuss the referendum.

    ​According to French media, Macron is thinking about organizing the referendum on May 26, the day of the elections to the European Parliament, to address the concerns of the concerns of the Yellow Vests protestors. 

    At the same time, however, Macron has authorized police to fire rubber bullets at unarmed protestors, causing serious injuries and inflaming still more would-be protestors. The rallies have been marked by violent clashes with police officers, who have also used tear gas against the protesters.

    The referendum is "considered to be sort of a gimmick," Mercier told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker, "because Macron wants to time it on the same day as the election, and it's kind of a trick to get voters to go to the polls."

    French media sources have reported that the department in charge of of elections at the French Interior Ministry, responsible for holding the vote, has already reserved the envelopes and ballots necessary for the referendum and is waiting for the "green light" from the president.

    According to Francois-Xavier Bellamy, the head of the Republicans, the conservative political party in France, the referendum would not end the protests.

    "What is certain is that a referendum will not shake off the current crisis," he told Radio Classique Sunday, also adding that holding the referendum on the same day as parliamentary elections would denigrate a "genuine debate on Europe."

    "We need a genuine debate on Europe, a real debate on the future of the bloc, and it would be absurd to replace this by a discussion on matters of national concern," he added.

    According to Mercier, the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police has led to the injury of many protesters. 

    "[The large rubber bullets] are… bigger than a tennis ball. There is supposed to be restriction on [the] use of this weapon, which is not to be fired at [a] short distance and not to be aimed at vital area[s] such as the head or the genitals. However, they [French police] have been doing that extensively; there are more than 110 people that have lost an eye or broken a jaw, and so on," Mercier told Radio Sputnik.

    "In France, [the justice system] is becoming extremely blurred," he added.

    The wave of so-called Yellow Vests rallies, which have been marked by violence, clashes with law enforcement agents and public disorder, started in France in mid-November 2018.

    The government ultimately decided not to raise fuel taxes (the proposed move that had triggered the rallies in the first place), and introduced other measures to improve the country's socioeconomic situation; however, tens of thousands of protesters continue to take to the streets across France every weekend, Sputnik previously reported.


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