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Pension reform in France | New protests planned amid political crisis



(Paris) Opponents of the pension reform wanted by President Emmanuel Macron intend to express their anger during the weekend, with new rallies and strikes in France, which is plunged into a political crisis after the forced passage of the ‘executive.

Two motions of censure were tabled on Friday against the government, which incurred its responsibility the day before via article 49.3 of the Constitution which allows the adoption of a text without a vote, except in the event of censure.

The intersyndicale called for rallies on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a 9e day of strikes and demonstrations Thursday against this decried reform which provides in particular for the decline in the retirement age from 62 to 64 years.

The use of 49.3 is considered almost unanimously as a setback for Emmanuel Macron, who has bet a lot of his political credit on this key reform of his second five-year term. And some fear a radicalization of actions.

At least two refineries, that of PetroIneos in Lavéra (South-East) and that of TotalEnergies in Gonfreville-l’Orcher (North-Uuest), could be shut down no later than Monday, according to the CGT union. Until now, strikers have blocked fuel shipments.

The French Minister of Industry Roland Lescure suggested on Saturday that the government could make requisitions in the event of the shutdown of these installations.

Asked about a risk of fuel shortage, the minister replied on France Info radio: “We showed in the fall that we knew how to take our responsibilities there again, we will take them”, in reference to the requisitions then taken to unblock oil sites during wage strikes.

He said such measures were “being deployed” with garbage collectors in the capital, where 10,000 tonnes of trash are piling up on the sidewalks, according to the town hall.


Waste piled up in a street in Le Havre


Gatherings are planned throughout the weekend: Place d’Italie in Paris, in the second French city Marseille but also in Brest (West), Toulon, Montpellier (South-East)… Not to mention the spontaneous gatherings which can leave fear overflows.

Thus, Thursday and Friday evening, thousands of people gathered at Place de la Concorde in Paris, a few hundred meters from the National Assembly and the presidential palace of the Elysée.


Demonstration on Place de la Concorde in Paris, Friday evening

The opposition to the reform took a more radical turn there on Friday evening, carried by young activists tired of the weekly processions and ready to do battle.

Hundreds of people clashed with the police in small groups, throwing projectiles. According to the police headquarters, 61 people were arrested.

“We had good days of strikes, but now we need an offensive movement”, had previously summed up Jean, a student who kept his last name.

In Lyon (Centre-Est), demonstrators burst into a district town hall and “tried to set the fire”, but the police quickly extinguished the fire and arrested 36 people, according to the prefecture.


A policeman tries to extinguish a fire lit at the town hall of 4e district of Lyon, Friday evening.

“Democratic denial”

Other demonstrations took place in peace, as in Lille (North).

“We have the impression that it is no longer a democracy, we wonder what the deputies are for”, explained Muriel Bruneau, 56 years old. “I see in Belgium the guys who get into their truck at 68, they can no longer load them. It raises security issues, ”added her husband Dany.

No-confidence motions are due to be considered in the National Assembly on Monday starting at 4 p.m. (11 a.m. Eastern Time), according to parliamentary sources.

The deputies of a centrist independent parliamentary group (LIOT) announced the tabling of a “transpartisan” motion of censure of the government, co-signed by elected members of the radical left (NUPES). The motion castigates “the apogee of an unacceptable denial of democracy”.

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (extreme right) also tabled a motion of censure, stressing that it would vote for all the motions presented.

To bring down the government, a motion must receive an absolute majority in the Assembly, ie 287 votes. This would require in particular that around thirty right-wing deputies Les Républicains (out of 61) vote for the motion of the LIOT group.

On Friday, the secretary general of the reformist union CFDT, Laurent Berger, once again warned of the anger mounting in the country and called on the French president to “withdraw the reform”.

The government has chosen to raise the retirement age in response to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population.

France is one of the European countries where the legal retirement age is the lowest, even if the pension systems are not completely comparable.

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