Since Saturday last week, large demonstrations were held across the country against soaring oil prices. But is it just about fuel?

1. Why are people protesting in France?

The French government announced last week to increase fuel prices and to use the added value to finance part of the energy transition. The government says the aim is to make the country less dependent on mineral oil.

Initiated by various unions, previous demonstrations in May and October this year were against against labour law and rail reforms. 

The media, however, has dubbed this protest 'leaderless,' which has been mainly organised through social media.

Doubts were raised over the way demonstrations were going on Saturday, when a car surrounded by protesters accelerated in panic, ramming into a crowd of people in eastern Savoie region, killing a 63-year-old woman. 

Locals see the fuel price hike as a move to favour the rich over poor and the lower-middle classes.

The major vote base of Emmanuel Macron was from the working and lower-middle classes, tending more to the left and centre-left.

These people are believed to be on the streets.


2. Who is protesting?

Numbers vary from 280,000 protesters on the first day to over 120,000 on Sunday. 

Today - so far - over 13,000 are manning more than 300 barricades on highways and major roads, according to the French police. 

The police hopes the number will decline as temperatures have dropped heavily and people would return to work by the beginning of the week.

So far, 528 have reportedly been injured. At least 17 are in serious health condition.

Over 400 are in custody.


3. What does 'Yellow Vests' stand for?

Protesters are wearing yellow vests - a symbol of blockade.

While the majority of the demonstrators are blocking the supply for fuel depots and main routes around the country, the vest was firstly worn for personal security.

Later, it became a symbol of blocking - new taxes, oil price hikes  and other government policies.

The yellow vests have also appealed people to come out on the streets and 'block' the city of Paris.

"It's about much more than fuel. They (the government) have left us with nothing," a 50-year old unemployed technician told AFP.

The President is accused of being the 'President of the Rich'. 

Yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, are seen on statues on a fountain on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France.
Yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, are seen on statues on a fountain on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. (Reuters)

4. How high have the fuel prices increased?

The fuel prices have increased more than 23% this year to €1.51 ($1.71) per litre in average, even touching €2.00 for some time. The government plans to add a further increase in January 2019. 

In real terms, taxes on diesel fuel have risen by 7.6 cents per litre since the beginning of the year. According to this, 3.9 cents more taxes have to be paid for gas.

Many suspect the tax increase.

"The government is raising taxes on motorists' petrol under the pretext of ecological taxation, and at the same time, it is cutting the budget for the energy transition by 577 million euros," the opposition politician Dupont-Aigan - from the national-conservative and Eurosceptic Debout la France party - tweeted, highlighting his visit to a group of yellow vest protestors. 


5. What is Macron doing?

So far the French President Emmanuel Macron has not made any official statement. Instead, the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on a TV programme on Sunday that “the French government would stay the course, but acknowledged the "suffering" expressed by the protests."

In the meantime,  Macron appealed for more sovereign and powerful EU at the German Bundestag.

"Europe, and within it the Franco-German couple, have the obligation not to let the world slip into chaos," he said. 

Local experts say French people expect Macron to intervene and stop France from slipping into chaos.

The president's popularity rating dropped to 26% since the protests broke out.