'Emmanuel Macron last night delivered a combative New Year's address, vowing to push forward with economic reforms despite two-month long protests from what he termed a "hateful mob".
The French President, whose televised address was broadcast form the Elysee Palace, acknowledged that "anger over injustices" lay behind the yellow vest movement that has scarred his second-year in office.
He said: "Ultraliberal and financial capitalism, too often guided by short term interests, is heading towards its demise.”
But the 41-year-old also strongly condemned protest-leaders. “Those who claim to speak for the people, but in fact speak for a hateful mob - attacking elected representatives, security forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals - are quite simply the negation of France,” he said.
The President, who for the first time stood to give the address, promised that his economic reforms would continue despite prolonged clashes between protesters and security forces that turned French cities into battlegrounds.
Looking defiant, Mr Macron rejected protesters’ demands for referendums on major policy decisions and for the possibility of ousting elected representatives, including the president himself. “The people is sovereign and it expresses itself at elections,” he said. “We are a state under the rule of law.”
2018 was an “annus horribilis’ for Mr Macron, whose approval ratings plunged from 40 to around 20 per cent, a record low for a president only 19 months into his term.
Figureheads of the “yellow vests” movement, which has no unified leadership or structure, were quick to condemn Mr Macron for failing to heed the message from the streets and vowed to continue the protests.
Jérémy Clément, a “yellow vest” from near Paris, said: “Mr President, you’ve tried to understand us but you’ve failed. We hope you’ll succeed in hearing us this year.”
Laurence Sailliet, spokeswoman for the main conservative opposition party, The Republicans, said Mr Macron “showed that he remains diosconnected.... There was no mea culpa, no admission that he got it wrong.”'
Read more: Macron terms yellow vest leaders 'hateful mob' in combative New Year's address
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