In a newly-released book “The People and the President” authors Cyril Graziani and Cécile Amar look into the ongoing yellow vests protests, which have been raging across France since mid-November.
The authors cited French President Emmanuel Macron as labelling the unrest a “gigantic collective failure” that he said he shares responsibility for and pledged to fix before his presidential term ends.
“It is a gigantic collective failure for which I share responsibility. But I have three years to change that. Lots of people were ashamed of their life, of not being able to make ends meet despite their best efforts. We’re the ones who should be ashamed”.
Macron confesses in the book that he underestimated the power of the yellow vests movement, which started out as a protest against a hike in fuel taxes but quickly morphed into an anti-government revolt.
The reason for his miscalculation is that the rallies were initially “smaller than those against the reform of [national rail operator] SNCF” before Christmas, which he managed to stop.
“Where I was wrong once president, people didn’t take it as conversation between equals. They said: ‘He’s the president’. It was perceived as a form of humiliation. It is my fault”, the book cited Macron as saying.
The French president was reportedly unfazed and said: “They may shoot me dead with a bullet one day but never by any other means”.
Macron also accused the media of treating the yellow vests as “equally representative and perhaps more sincere than a mayor or a unionist”.
“I’ve done my mea culpa but journalists should do theirs”, he is cited as saying.
The president also pointed out that he is alone in the face of protests:
“I’m fighting for you. Who has supported me in the yellow vest crisis? Nobody. The French people chose me, not the Republic of parties. I owe them everything. If I fail, I will have failed for them and with them. Never against them”.
The authors further quoted Macron as suggesting he could have quelled the unrest that triggered violent weekly protests throughout France if he had personally met demonstrators that occupied Gaillon roundabout in Normandy days after it erupted.
“It was necessary at that moment. He had to go and meet them on the ground; that he took as step in their direction”, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was cited as saying.
The meeting was scheduled but Macron eventually refused to go, reasoning that it was for the government and other officials to act as mediators.
Even though the government decided to abandon the planned hike, the protests didn’t stop and evolved in a broader movement against the Elysee’s policies, with many demanding that Macron resign.
In order to end the protests, Macron has urged the French people to take part in a three-month national debate that will concentrate on such topics as taxes, public spending, and environmental reforms.