French journalist concerned Paris protests could embolden far-right in France

French journalist Rokhaya Diallo said during an interview that aired on Wednesday that she’s afraid that protests in France over a proposed fuel tax increase could further embolden the far-right movement in the country and give rise to a nationalist president.

She noted that French President Emmanuel Macron was elected partly because he was running against a far-right opponent and said she thinks that the protests could push more voters to vote against Macron.

“I’m afraid he will be the reason of that, because Macron was elected because he was facing the far-right Marine Le Pen and many people voted against Marine Le Pen, against the far right and not especially in favor of Macron,” Diallo said in response to a question over whether the protests will further embolden the far-right populist movement.

“I’m afraid that we have during the next presidential election a far-right president,” she added, citing it is the one party that hasn't been tested in the country. 

Thousands of protesters, called "yellow vests" because of the fluorescent vests all motorists in France must have in their cars, took to the streets in Paris last month to protest planned gas-tax hikes aimed at supporting Macron's energy plan and combating the effects of climate change. 

After several weeks of uprisings and clashes with police, Macron on Monday tried to diffuse the growing unrest by announcing that he would temporarily delay the planned gas-tax increase in order to meet with activists groups, including protest leaders.

Diallo said the activists, who come from mostly low-income and working-class suburban areas, initially felt they would be taxed unfairly in comparison with big companies and the wealthy. She said these protests have since evolved into a larger movement, which signals a "deeper" denunciation of Macron. 

“He’s been perceived as someone very arrogant and he has been pursuing a very liberal agenda, and many cities in France have the feeling that it has made them more fragile from an economical point of view, so that’s the reason it went so widely and why it was so popular around the country,” she said.

Diallo isn’t sure if the backlash will continue to spark unrest, saying Macron may have already addressed some concerns in his speech on Monday when he detailed his plans to slowly wean the country off fossil fuels. 

She also noted that people might be concerned about safety issues following a shooting on Tuesday in Strasbourg, France.

A manhunt is still underway for the suspected 45-year-old gunman who opened fire near a popular Christmas market in eastern France. The attack left at least two people dead and injured at least 12 others.

– Tess Bonn