Macron is under increasing pressure as pension unrest grows
Macron is under increasing pressure as pension unrest grows

Paris: After his decision to push through a contentious pension overhaul without a vote sparked a wave of protests, French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday faced the most serious threat to his authority since the so-called Yellow Vest protests.

Following violent protests on Thursday, a new demonstration began in Paris on Friday evening as demonstrators gathered in the city's Place de la Concorde, close to the Assemblee Nationale parliament building.

On Friday, as protesters confronted a row of riot police, some of them started a fire in the Place de la Concorde while yelling, "Macron, Resign!"

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Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon claimed that "something fundamental happened," and that as a result, there were immediately spontaneous mobilisations across the nation. It goes without saying that I support them because I believe that's what's going on. The government claims that raising the retirement age in France by two years, to 64, is necessary to prevent the system from going bankrupt.

The official retirement age in France, which is among the lowest in the OECD, will likely remain at 62 due to strong national sentiment. According to a Toluna Harris Interactive poll conducted for RTL radio, more than eight out of ten people disapprove of the government's decision to abstain from a vote in parliament, and 65 percent want strikes and protests to continue.

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advancing without a vote is a complete denial of what has been occurring in the streets for several weeks, according to 52-year-old psychologist Nathalie Alquier, who was speaking in Paris. It's simply intolerable.

The major unions in France announced that they would continue to mobilise in an effort to reverse the changes. This week will see protests, with Thursday set aside for another day of nationwide labour unrest.

The prestigious Baccalaureate high school exams could be impacted by the teachers' unions' call for strikes the following week. The unrest on Thursday was reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices and forced Macron to make a partial U-turn on a carbon tax, despite the fact that eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January, along with many more local industrial actions, had so far been largely peaceful.

Police have detained about 310 people, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who also pledged to crack down on troublemakers.
He told RTL radio, "Opposition is legitimate, protests are legitimate, but causing mayhem is not.

On Friday afternoon, opposition lawmakers from the left and centre submitted a motion of no-confidence. However, there was little chance that this would pass unless a surprise alliance of MPs from all sides, from the far-left to the far-right, is formed. This was true even though Macron lost his absolute majority in the lower house of parliament in elections last year.

Such an alliance has been disqualified by the conservative Les Republicains party's leaders. They had not sponsored the initial motion of no confidence that was submitted on Friday. Later on in the day, another petition from the far-right was anticipated.

Although a few LR lawmakers have indicated they might break ranks, it would be difficult to pass the no confidence motion without the support of all other opposition MPs and 48 of the 61 LR lawmakers.

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According to Berenberg Chief Economist Holger Schmieding, French governments have historically prevailed in similar votes of no confidence. Even though "Macron has already weakened his position by trying to by-pass parliament," he anticipated that it would be the same again this time.

Parliamentary votes were most likely to happen over the weekend or on Monday. Considering that government officials are already putting together more socially conscious reforms, Macron will want to turn the page quickly.

In addition, he has the option of dismissing Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who has been at the forefront of the pension discussion, at some point. But neither action or both might be very effective at calming unrest on the streets. On Friday, neither of them had said anything in the media.

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