FILE - In this April 23, 2019 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron waits for Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Macron is unveiling long-awaited plans to quell the yellow vest anti-government protests that have marred his presidency. He is planning to respond to yellow vest demonstrators' concerns over their loss of purchasing power with tax cuts for lower-income households and measures to boost pensions and help single parents (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

Macron to offer solutions to French yellow vest grievances

April 25, 2019 - 7:24 am

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is set to unveil long-awaited plans Thursday to quell five months of yellow vest protests that have damaged his presidency.

Macron will make a speech at the Elysee presidential palace based on three months of national debate aimed at addressing the protesters' concerns through town hall meetings and collecting complaints online.

He is expected to respond to concerns over sinking purchasing power with tax cuts for lower-income households and measures to boost pensions and help single parents. He may also make it easier for ordinary people to initiate local referendums.

While his promises are expected to respond to some demonstrators' grievances, others are likely to dismiss them as too little, too late. The protesters see the centrist Macron as favoring the rich and want more income equality, among other demands.

Macron initially planned to make his announcements last week, but postponed them when the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral broke out.

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said Macron's party leaders and government members will meet next Monday to determine the best schedule to implement the new measures.

The yellow vests, named after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars, have been protesting for 23 consecutive weeks.

The numbers of protesters have dwindled in recent weeks amid internal divisions, but they remain a challenge to Macron's government as many demonstrations in Paris and other cities are marked with serious violence.

A leading figure of the yellow vests, truck driver Eric Drouet, announced Wednesday on Facebook that he is "taking a break."

"I'm tired, sorry," he wrote, referring to heinous comments, insults and threats on his family that he suggested come from within the movement.

The movement started in November as a protest against a fuel tax hike and quickly expanded into broader public rejections of Macron's economic policies, widely seen as favoring the rich and big businesses. Many protesters say Macron despises low-paid workers and modest pensioners and want him to resign.

Macron has repeatedly said he won't reintroduce a wealth tax on the country's richest people —one of the protesters' main demands.

French polls show that Macron's popularity has hovered around low levels for more than a year. They started plunging when he applied a tax rise on retirees and dived lower as the yellow vest protests erupted in November. Macron's numbers have turned up recently while he traversed the country taking part in the national debate and the protests turned violent.

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