Economy

France abandons petrol tax rises after deadly protests

France abandons petrol tax rises after deadly protests

Four people have been killed and hundreds injured in accidents linked to the nationwide road blockades and protests, playing havoc with traffic in the busy run-up to Christmas.

The rising cost of gasoline and diesel fuel sparked protests that have since evolved into broader demonstrations against Macron's government, exposing tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.

Turnout for the protests had fallen from about 280,000 three weeks ago to 136,000 last Saturday, with some of the violence, vehicle burning, spray painting and damage to Paris' historic monuments alienating supporters.

Since returning from the G-20 summit in Argentina over the weekend, Macron's actions have done little to reassure protesters that he is listening to their concerns.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said all tax-related policies needed to be periodically evaluated and, if deemed not to be working, should be changed.

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Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told parliament: "What is at stake is the security of French people and our institutions. I'm calling for responsibility".

Farmers union FNSEA said it would fight to help farmers earn a better income, though it said it would not officially be joining forces with the "yellow vests", as the protesters have come to be called after the high-visibility vests French motorists are required to keep in their cars, and which they don for demonstrations.

A new poll by the Ifop-Fiducial survey group on Tuesday showed the former investment banker's approval rating at a record low of 23 percent.

French President Emmanuel Macron assesses the damages of the "Yellow Vests" protest earlier on the week.

Christophe Chalencon said that "if not there will be chaos", with risks of more deaths.

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Mr Griveaux also said the government would permanently end the fuel tax hikes planned for January if no agreement were reached at the end of the consultation period called by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

Minister Francois de Rugy told BFM TV that the government had made a decision to ditch the plans in their entirety in order to assuage fears that the increase would be be reintroduced as soon as the protests came to an end. That, observers say, makes it more hard for government officials to answer.

Demonstrators were back in the streets wearing their signature yellow vests despite the announcement.

"They hope we'll now go home but we're not going to move", said Lionel Rambeaux, a 41-year-old welder manning a fuel depot blockade outside Le Mans in western France.

Numerous demonstrations were over a new university application system.

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Nine government ministers were sent out to the television and radio studios Wednesday to explain the administration's stance.

Some 72 percent of French people support the "yellow vests" movement - a figure which has remained stable despite last weekend's violence and the government's climbdown.

Protest and street violence has been a central part of France's political culture - from the Revolution in the late 1700s to the student riots in 1968 - and the yellow vest movement reflects this tradition. Some 4,500 police officers were deployed to deal with about 10,000 protesters in Paris alone.

"Trump also retweeted a false claim from American conservative student activist Charlie Kirk that said: "'We want Trump' being chanted through the streets of Paris".

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