As France braces for another round of violent protests this weekend in Paris and the rest of the country, embattled French President Emmanuel Macron is a missing man as his government tries to curb the chaos caused in part by his unpopular plan to hike gas taxes.
Macron swept into power in 2017, having emerged out of obscurity less than a year earlier. Espousing his own brand of centrism, he has presented himself on the world stage as a spokesman for multilateralism and internationalism against a nationalist wave moving through Europe.
While he has regularly been seen on world stages, including the United Nations and the U.S. Congress, he has been conspicuous by his absence this week, choosing to keep away from the limelight as his government attempts to deal with the issues being protested by the “yellow jacket” protesters who have protested and even rioted in cities over France in recent weeks.
Macron had initially stood firm on the hikes, saying they were necessary to combat climate change and France’s reliance on oil. But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the government was scrapping the tax hike altogether. A government spokesman also suggested on French radio that a wealth tax that Macron ended last year could be re-introduced.
The French government has said that 89,000 additional police officers and law enforcement personnel — with 8,000 in Paris — had been mobilized ahead of Saturday to head off planned protests, which show no sign of slowing down, despite the damage control by the government.