The French president is facing a growing but leaderless protest against a hike in fuel duty. A retreat could earn Macron the ire of environmental backers, who are already being courted by the left.
PARIS — Emmanuel Macron has a popular uprising on his hands.
After more than 280,000 people took to the streets on Saturday in opposition to the French president’s planned hike of taxes on gasoline, protests resumed on Monday, causing road blockages across much of the country.
While the mass movement focuses on the gas tax, it highlights a broader array of frustrations with Macron. The French president was already struggling with approval scores in the mid-twenties and an underperforming economy before protests began.
Now he faces an amorphous, grassroots movement with no clearly identifiable leader in the run-up to an electoral showdown with Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally in the race for European Parliament.
Renouncing the gas tax could spare Macron some short-term suffering. But it would leave a gaping hole in the French budget and embolden protesters. Moreover, a retreat could earn the ire of environmental backers, who are already being courted by the center left.
For now, France’s leadership is sticking to its guns.
“When it’s difficult is not when we should change course. The course we have chosen, we are going to keep it,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a TV interview Sunday evening. “We want our fiscal policy to weigh more on carbon than on work.”
Motorists’ frustration, however, shows few signs of relenting.
A poll on Friday showed 74 percent of French people support the movement, after 78 percent voiced support two weeks ago. Meanwhile, 68 percent of those who saw Macron tackle the subject in a November 14 interview found their leader to be “rather unconvincing.”