/Yellow Vests: why did they fail?

Yellow Vests: why did they fail?

Yellow Vests: why did they fail?

The Portuguese spontaneous movement, gathered through social media and aiming to emulate their French counterparts, took to the streets on Friday, December 21st. However, the demonstration failed to achieve any significant impact. Apart from some altercations with the police in the centre of Lisbon, the country almost didn’t notice the manifestations. There was a picture (circulating in social media) showing a group of yellow vests surrounded by a group of police officers. There were more policemen than demonstrators.

Political uncertainty

In France, the yellow vests movement is deemed as “un-partisan”, and in fact, it never appeared any other way. Both Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon seemed to give some political cover to it. However, given the odd political solution in Portugal (having both the Communists and the Left Bloc supporting the Socialist parliamentary majority), there was no support whatsoever from the far-left parties to the action. In social media, leftists were hinting that this could be driven by the far-right (and in fact, the microscopic Portuguese extreme right-wing party was unofficially present in the event).

Moreover, several measures demanded by the demonstrators are deemed as utopic or just impossible to apply by a large sect of the Portuguese population. Raising minimum wage to 1000 euros would mean an unthinkable rise of almost 75%.


Quick fact: in France, demonstrators are unemployed but also employed (or at least under-employed) people taking their free Saturdays to political action. Planning this action for a Friday might not have the same effect. And no one knows why was this planned to a Friday.

No “hot” questions

Portugal doesn’t have a question with immigrants and, at the moment, most of the people are satisfied with the integration in the European Union. Lots of citizens unhappy with the current government feel that the EU is the main reason “blocking” a bigger leftist leaning. Unhappy leftists, as mentioned above, felt that this was not “their” manifestation.

Portugal: a peaceful country?

Having said all this, we can add what tourists usually feel about Portugal: that it is a friendly country of friendly people, not eager to big fights for political reasons. And although it is true that the country participated in the “Scramble for Africa” in the XIX century and endured a prolonged war in Africa in the sixties and seventies, to stop decolonization, it is also true that, in spite of several coups, there hasn’t been an actual civil war in Portugal since 1847. That has to mean something.