France’s “Great National Debate” was launched by President Emmanuel Macron in response to increased protests by “yellow vest” demonstrators demanding drastic changes.
The ongoing “yellow vest” protests have created a huge political challenge for Macron.
“I intend to transform anger into solutions,” he declared in an open letter to the nation in mid-January, referring to the angry anti-Macron protests, which have been taking place every Saturday in Paris and other French cities.
“Your proposals will help build a new contract for the nation,” he promised backe them
The debate has led to 10,000 local meetings, a multitude of online contributions, and 100 hours of presidential talking in public meetings over the past months.
To sum up the debate, Prime Minister Philippe is set to lay out the first wave of conclusions in the presence of ministers, experts and members of the public later on Monday.
A polling firm and three political consultancies have attempted to crunch all the data from the internet, public meetings and 16,000 books which have been left open in mayor’s offices around the country to record grievances.
Insiders in the prime minister’s office have stressed the difficulties of listening to a highly polarized country that looked on the edge of an insurrection in mid-December.
“There are a few things which jump out, but the reality is that there are big disparities in opinion on most subjects,” one of his aides told AFP.
Philippe had said on Friday that the government had listened “to everything that the people had to say, in their great diversity, and sometimes in their great complexity.”
“Nothing will be the same as before,” government spokesman Sibeth Ndiaye insisted on Sunday, underlining how the debate has been billed as a watershed in Macron’s presidency.
Macron is expected to try to turn the feedback into policy changes with a major speech planned in the middle of the month.