Mr Macron is going through a “presidency-defining moment” as a massive wave of protests sweeps across France, according to James Shields professor of French Politics and Modern History at the University of Warwick. The Yellow Vest movement and the way Mr Macron has dealt with it so far could determine the end of his mandate just two years after his election, the expert explained. He told Express.co.uk: “When Macron was elected, his biggest dread was to be like other presidents before him, beaten back from his reform agenda by street protests. He knows that if he fails to defuse the current crisis, his prospects for implementing controversial reforms to unemployment insurance or pensions will evaporate.
“The stakes could not be higher for a president still only in the second year of his five-year mandate.”
The Yellow Vest demonstrations blew up on November 17 after the Government announced a tax fuel hike.
Hundreds of thousands took their rage to the streets and attended protests every weekend for months.
Quickly, protesters started voicing their dissatisfaction towards Mr Macron’s stringent economic policies.
The French President initially reacted to the demonstrations, which often turned violent, by allowing police to use water cannons and tear gas, injuring many and sparking outrage among human right groups.
But in late 2018 he caved in as the Yellow Vest movement kept on protesting, scrapping the fuel tax raise and announcing the launch of the “great national debate”, during which citizens could raise their concerns and bring forward proposals in a bid to be heard by the central government.
But these moves didn’t entirely quash the Yellow Vest movement, as thousands of people are still marching.
Mr Shields said: “Macron is in a bind: if he’s not tough enough, he invites accusations of being lax in the face of violent public disorder.
“If he comes down heavily on the protesters, he opens himself to the charge of being authoritarian.
“The president looks now to be in a position where he can’t win either way.”
The use of force and the impact these protests may have on the future of the presidency mirror a crisis faced by De Gaulle, who in 1968 faced general strikes and marches led by left-wing students demanding social changes.
Both presidents called in the general reserve of the French national police (CRS) to face protesters, often struck down with brutal force by the armed forces.
Just like the students in 1968, the Yellow Vest demonstrators had been marching chanting “CRS equal SS” a slogan comparing the French police to the Nazis.
Mr Shields said: “Macron and de Gaulle are two very different presidents from two very different historical moments.
“In 1968, the driving force in the conflict between students and the state was social and cultural.
“Today, the driving force in the conflict between the Yellow Vests and the state is economic, low wages, pensions, tax, cost of living, and resistance to Macron’s liberalising reforms.
“Where there is a strong parallel is that both can be seen as presidency-defining moments.
“De Gaulle came through May 1968 to re-establish his grip on power, but that grip was never again as firm and he retired within a year.
“Again today we’re witnessing a high-stakes contest the president cannot afford to lose – but, unlike de Gaulle aged 78, retiring to write his memoirs will not be an option for Macron should he emerge weakened from the crisis.”