Mass protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, which the government adopted without a vote in the assembly, are also taking place in Paris on Saturday evening. There were new clashes with the police.
After the ban on gatherings on the Place de Concorde and the Champs-Élysées in the center of the city, the protesters gathered this time on the Place d’Italie in the south of the capital.
“Macron, resign” and “Macron will break, we will win,” shouted the protesters. Some of them set garbage cans on fire. Paris has been littered with garbage for the last few days due to the garbagemen’s strike. The police intervened against the protesters, and new clashes broke out.
In the afternoon, a group of students and activists from the Permanent Revolution group gathered in the Forum des Halles shopping center, unfurling posters and calling passers-by for a general strike.
As a result of the strike, French refineries have also found themselves in trouble, and there are concerns about a possible shortage of fuel.
Protests on Saturday evening are also taking place in the city of Compiegne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south of France. In Bordeaux in the southwest, police used tear gas against protesters who were lighting fires.
61 protesters were arrested on Friday evening
Mass protests took place already on Friday evening, when the police in Paris arrested 61 protesters. Protesters gathered in Place de la Concorde near the National Assembly building and also called for Macron’s resignation. The police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas, and the protesters used pyrotechnics. Protests also took place in Toulouse, Strasbourg and Bordeaux, among others, and similar protests took place already on Thursday.
The central point of the pension reform is the raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64 years. In addition to later retirement, the government also wants to increase the number of years employees have to pay into the pension system with the reform, and the minimum pension should be increased to 1,200 euros.
The government claims that without raising the retirement age, the pension system will collapse. Trade unions and the majority of residents do not agree with the government’s assessment. France has one of the lowest retirement ages among the member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
More than 80 percent of the population is dissatisfied with the government’s decision to pass the reform by bypassing parliament, which is otherwise enabled by a special constitutional instrument, while 65 percent want the strikes and protests to continue, according to a public opinion survey published by RTL radio.
Accept the reform without a vote in parliament “is a denial of democracy, a complete denial of everything that has been happening in the streets for several weeks,” said the 52-year-old psychologist Nathalie Alquier. “This is unbearable,” she added.
The major unions are announcing the continuation of the mobilization of their members to achieve the rejection of the reform. New protests have been announced this weekend, and a new strike has been announced for Thursday.
As a result of the pension reform, 37 percent of operational staff in TotalEnergies’ refineries and warehouses are also on strike. Fraco’s fuel supplies could be at risk as a result of the union’s call to extend the refinery strike for 10 days.
TotalEnergies said its Feyzin refinery in southeastern France was operating with reduced production, its Donges refinery in the west was down due to a technical problem with an electrical transformer, and fuel supplies from its La Mede refinery in the south of the country were interrupted due to a strike. At the company’s site in Normandy in the north, operations and production were mostly normal.
At the Esso-branded Port Jerome-Gravenchon refinery, ExxonMobil’s largest oil company, in Normandy, fuel supplies were meanwhile halted for at least 24 hours, a representative of the CGT union said.
So far, the protests and strikes have mostly been relatively peaceful, but the events of Thursday and Friday were reminiscent of the yellow vest protests of late 2018, triggered by rising fuel prices. At the time, President Macron had to partially abandon the announced fuel tax.
The government is expected to pass a no-confidence vote
Due to the adoption of the reform by the parliament, the members of the Liot group of independent deputies filed an inter-party motion of no confidence in the government, which was also signed by the members of the left-wing Nupes alliance.
The second motion of no confidence was submitted by members of the far-right National Assembly Marine Le Pen. This proposal is expected to receive less support, but the party has already announced that it will also support the mentioned proposal of independent deputies.
Macron lost his absolute majority in the lower house of parliament in last year’s election, but there is little chance of the vote succeeding unless there is a surprising alliance between MPs from all sides, from the far left to the far right. In the conservative Republican Party, such an alliance has already been ruled out. No-confidence votes are expected to take place at the end of the week or on Monday