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Yellow Vests: Macron to kick-off ‘grand debate’ in Normandy

Ludovic Marin, REUTERS | French President Emmanuel Macron sits next to representatives of the French Association of Rural Mayors (AMRF) in Paris on January 14, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron heads to the northern town of Grand Bourgtheroulde in Normandy on Tuesday to launch a three-month national debate aimed at defusing tensions with Yellow Vest protesters.

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The small town of 3,500 inhabitants is the first of many stops Macron will make across the country between now and the end of the debate on March 15.

He is expected to give a speech at around 3pm local time (GMT +1), after which he will meet with 600 mayors and local officials from Normandy to discuss their constituents’ grievances.

Macron will be joined by Local Government Minister Sébastien Lecornu and Junior Environment Minister Emmanuelle Wargon, who were tasked on Monday with leading the debate after their predecessor resigned last week following controversy over her salary.

Yellow Vest protesters and unions have called for demonstrations at the debate, which will be held under tight security. Authorities have issued a ban on traffic in the area and access is restricted to residents and local workers only.

While supporters have hailed Macron’s initiative as an “unprecedented” exercise in democracy, some political commentators have warned it is fraught with risk.

“If he messes this step up, the damage, for him and the rest of the country, will be considerable,” journalist Jean-Marcel Bouguereau wrote in regional newspaper La République des Pyrénées.

Macron announced plans to hold the national debate in December as part of a string of concessions to Yellow Vest demonstrators. The movement, which began in protest against a direct tax on diesel fuel, has since coalesced into a broader opposition of the president’s economic policies.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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