Pension protest in France enters third night

France has seen several rounds of protests and rolling stikes in opposition to Macron's pension reforms. (Photo: Deutsche Welle)

Saturday marked the third night of violence between protestors and police officers in the heart of Paris over the government's avoidance of a legislative vote on controversial pension reforms.

President Emmanuel Macron's reform will increase the legal retirement age by two years to 64, a move he deems necessary to prevent the system from failing.

As ministers bypassed the lower chamber of parliament and approved the plan by decree on Thursday, rival opposition parties submitted two separate motions of no confidence, which will be heard on Monday afternoon. One would expect them to fail.

What happened on Saturday?

Authorities said over 4,000 individuals gathered in Place d'Italie after being prohibited from demonstrating near the National Assembly building due to violent conflicts the previous evenings.

The prohibition was issued due to "severe threats to public order."

According to Le Monde, protestors set garbage on fire, destroyed billboards and bus shelters, and threw street-blocking obstacles at police.

According to the newspaper, 73 individuals were arrested, and riot police deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, exactly as they had on previous evenings.

Saturday morning, scores of students and activists marched through the Place des Halles in Paris, yelling loudly and emitting red smoke.

A second night of violence was recorded in the southeastern city of Lyon, as small groups repeatedly confronted police, provoking a tear gas response.

More than thirty individuals were detained on Friday when a group of activists attempted to break into a town hall and set it on fire.

In Marseille, Montpellier, and Nantes, placards reading "Death to the King" appeared to refer to Macron.

What next for the protest movement?

A broad alliance of France's largest unions has stated that it will continue to mobilize members to reverse the pension reforms.

Several unions instructed their members to continue rolling strikes, severely impacting high-speed and regional rail services, among other services, this weekend.

On Friday, an estimated 10,000 tons of trash were still rotting in the streets despite the continued efforts of Paris' municipal garbage collectors.

On Monday, about one-third of flights will be cancelled at certain French airports due to strikes, according to union leaders.

Friday evening, according to the CGT union, its workers shut down the TotalEnergies oil refinery in Normandy. A similar blockade of a refinery in southern France began earlier in the day.

Also scheduled for Thursday is a nationwide day of industrial action, the eighth since mid-January.

Public hostility not enough to quash plans

According to polls, two-thirds of the French people were already opposed to the pension reform.

Invoking the problematic article 49.3 of the constitution to circumvent a parliamentary vote prompted popular fury and condemnation among the political class.

Next week in parliament, opposition members seek to gain sufficient support to oust the cabinet in the vote of no confidence and repeal the bill.

The Ministry of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is anticipated to survive, though.

The motion would require the support of around half of the opposition's right-wing Republicans, a doubtful prospect. They would also require the approval of the National Assembly's powerful extreme left and extreme proper factions.

Last year, Macron made pension reforms the centrepiece of his re-election campaign.

Critics claim the adjustments are unjust to those who begin working early in physically demanding jobs and women who halt their careers to raise children.

The turmoil is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest rallies that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel costs and compelled Macron to reverse his position on a carbon tax partially.

Macron had planned pension reforms for his first term as president, but he had to abandon the notion and instead campaigned on a promise to complete the task.

Publish : 2023-03-19 10:40:00

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