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Italian Populists Back Yellow Vests While Macron’s France Pledges Crackdown

TOPSHOT - A demonstrator waves a French national flag during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs in front of the Arc of Triomphe on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, on December 1, 2018. - Thousands of anti-government protesters are expected today …
ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty
VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

The leaders of Italy’s populist governing coalition have backed protests by the Yellow Vests in France, whilst French president Emmanuel Macron’s administration has pledged a crackdown on the movement.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, head of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), wrote on his party’s blog Monday: “Yellow vests, do not weaken!”

“We know what animates your spirit and why you decided to take to the streets,” he said.

“In France, as in Italy, politics has become deaf to the needs of citizens who have been kept out of the most important decisions affecting the people. The cry that rises strongly from the French squares is ultimately: ‘let us participate!'” he observed.

M5S has championed direct democracy since 2009.

Matteo Salvini, also Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the right-populist League (Lega), said in a statement reported by Agence France-Presse, “I support honest citizens protesting against a president who governs against his people” — though he went on to condemn violence.

ROME, ITALY – JUNE 01: Labor and Industry and Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio and Interior Minister and Deputy PM Matteo Salvini attend the swearing in ceremony of the new government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Palazzo del Quirinale on June 1, 2018 in Rome, Italy. Law professor Giuseppe Conte has been chosen as Italy’s new prime minister by the leader of the 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, and League leader Matteo Salvini. (Photo by Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images)

The French government did not react positively to the comments from the neighbouring government, with French European Affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau saying: “France is careful not to give lessons to Italy. Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio should learn to look after their own house.”

Di Maio responded Tuesday, condemning the remarks as “hhypocrisy” writing, “Perhaps she forgets when her president, Macron, speaking of our government had compared us to leprosy: ‘You see them grow like a leprosy, a little everywhere in Europe, in countries where we thought it was impossible to see it reappear’,” he reminded her.

Meanwhile, the Macron government has pledged to crack down on the protesters following their eighth consecutive weekend of action, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announcing on Monday that the administration is considering banning participation in unauthorised protests.

Mr Philippe told TF1 television, “Today, if we want to defend the freedom to demonstrate… we must evolve our law and supplement our legislative system.”

“The government is in favour of our law being amended and punishing those who do not respect this obligation to declare protests, those who take part in undeclared protests, those who arrive at protests with balaclavas,” added the prime minister.

“We can not accept that some people take advantage of these demonstrations to break, to burn.”

The protests began in late November 2018 as a reaction to rising fuel costs and evolved into general action against Macron’s globalist policies. Despite the president backing down and making a number of concessions, his approval rating remains low, with protesters calling for him to resign.

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