Pension protests pressure Macron ahead of crucial vote for France

The move, which follows weeks of protests over the pension overhaul, sparked three nights of unrest and protests in Paris and across the country, reminiscent of the yellow vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high prices. fuel.

However, while Monday’s votes may show anger against the Macron government, they are unlikely to bring him down.

Opposition MPs tabled two no-confidence motions in Parliament on Friday.

The centrist group Liot proposed a cross-party no-confidence motion, which was co-signed by the left-wing alliance Nupes. A few hours later, the far-right National Rally party, which has 88 deputies in the National Assembly, also tabled a motion of censure.

But even though Macron’s party lost its absolute majority in the lower house in last year’s election, the cross-party motion was unlikely to pass – unless a surprise alliance of lawmakers from across the edges are formed, from far left to far left. far right.

>> The debate: the French government ignores Parliament on pensions, at what cost?

Leaders of the conservative Les Républicains (LR) party have ruled out such an alliance. None of them sponsored the first no-confidence motion tabled on Friday.

But the party still faced some pressure.

In the southern city of Nice, LR party leader Eric Ciotti’s political office was ransacked overnight and tags were left threatening riots if the motion was not backed.

“They want to violently pressure my vote on Monday. I will never give in to the new disciples of Terror,” Ciotti wrote on Twitter.

Macron’s overhaul raises the minimum retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not collapse.

“I don’t think there will be a majority to bring down the government. But it will be a moment of truth,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper, commenting on the prospects for Monday’s votes.

“Is pension reform worth bringing down the government and the political mess? The answer is clearly no. Everyone must take responsibility,” he added.

“We are trampled”

Macron put pension reform at the center of his successful re-election campaign last year, but he lost his parliamentary majority in subsequent polls – in part because of opposition to his pension schemes.

>> Bitter pension battle turns into democratic crisis as Macron bypasses French parliament

Critics say the planned changes are unfair to people who start working at a young age in physically demanding jobs and to women who take career breaks to raise children.

Opinion polls suggest that more than two-thirds of French people oppose the reform, while Macron’s popularity has fallen to just 28%, according to a poll published Sunday by the Journal du Dimanche.

Police on Saturday banned gatherings in a key Paris square opposite Parliament after two nights of unrest at the site.

However, thousands of protesters gathered in another part of the capital, some erecting barricades in the streets, setting fire to bins and smashing billboards.

Security forces charged at protesters and fired tear gas and water cannons at Place d’Italie. A police source said officers arrested 81 people at or near the scene.

There were protests in other cities after regional unions called for a weekend of protests.

Ariane Laget, 36, was among some 200 people demonstrating in the small southern town of Lodève.

“We’re fed up,” she said. “We feel like we’re being trampled on and no one is listening to us.”

Thousands of people took to the streets of the western city of Nantes, where a sign read “Death to the king”, in an apparent reference to the president.

Protesters threw bottles at members of the security forces who responded with tear gas, an AFP photographer noted.

Unions have called for another day of nationwide strikes and rallies on Thursday.

Meanwhile, garbage collectors in Paris maintained a continuous strike, leaving an estimated 10,000 tons of trash rotting in the streets.

A union representative said on Saturday that strikers at three incinerators in the Paris region would let garbage trucks pass “to limit the risk of an epidemic”.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AFP)

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