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French anger at Macron and his pension reform diktat bypassing democracy

Anti Macron Protest, Paris. (December 2018, AFP)

French police have clashed with protesters angry at President Macron and his controversial pension reform which bypasses democratic norms.

An estimated 3.5 million people across the France participated in the protests, according to trade Unions; however, the estimate by French authorities was much lower at just under 1.1 million.

In the capital, Paris, union leaders said that a record 800,000 people took part in the March throughout the city to demand that the government drop the fiercely contested change.

According to the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, dozens of police officers had been injured and dozens of people were arrested across the country.

Earlier workers blocked access to a terminal at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, forcing some travelers to get there on foot.

The trade unions in France have called for fresh nationwide strikes and protests amid continued anger over the government's unpopular pension reforms.

Trade unions have blamed the government for the "explosive situation" in the country and have asked workers to continue protesting against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform diktat.

For us ten or twelve years ago the previous pension reform was already unacceptable. What we want is a retirement age at 60 years old, and 55 years old for those with hard working conditions.

And at one point all these demands have to be expressed on the ground.

And if we have to go beyond the demand set by the inter unions, then this is what we will do.

Alexis Antonioli, Secretary General CGT Union

Rail and air travel was disrupted while teachers were among many professions to walk off the job.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising from burning piles of debris, blocking traffic on a highway near Toulouse in southwestern France.

Strikers briefly blocked roads in other cities as well. Police also fired tear gas at some protesters in several other cities and used water cannons against others in the northwest.

Protests against the measures have been raging since January.

The only thing he could say to appease the anger would be that he renounces his reform, that there won't be any reform that respects the fact that the vast majority of the people don't want it, and that he regrets the way it happened.

It most probably won't be that way. So I think we are in a deep crisis that will linger on for weeks and maybe months.

Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet, Political Analyst

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has said the legislation, which his governed pushed through the French Parliament without a vote last week, would come into force by the end of the year despite escalating tensions.

The current protests are the most serious challenge to Macron since the yellow vest revolt four years ago.

We may be at the beginning of a new yellow vest movement, absolutely, because there is no democratic way out.

The only thing that could avoid that would be a decision by the Supreme Court, the French Supreme Court, to overrule the law and to, you know, reset the legislative process. It has the power to do this.

This is the only hope we have to avoid a major crisis.

Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet, Political Analyst

Polls show two thirds of French people are against Macron's pension reform and the decision to push it through without a parliamentary vote.

Since December Macron has suffered a substantial drop of eight points in approval ratings; only 28% satisfied and 70% dissatisfied.

Macron's government has shrunk parliament to impose the unpopular pension reforms by a special constitutional power.

The so called article 49.3, which provides that the government can pass a bill without a vote at the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, after a deliberation at a cabinet meeting.

I think this was a denial of democracy that were meant to pass a law for which a majority of French people were against, the National Assembly was against it.

Using the 49.3 is scornful of French public opinion.

Macron was elected with no majority.

He was elected against the Front National; we had not given him a mandate to pass the reforms, which are unjust.


This loophole has been used in the past by various governments but, this time; it's prompting a lot of criticism because of the massive public opposition to the proposed reform.

The proposed changes include raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 as well as increasing the number of years people must make contributions to receive a full state pension.

The reforms were at the heart of President Emmanuel Macron's reelection campaign last year but are proving to be deeply unpopular.

The government insists that the reform plan is essential to ensure the French pension system does not run out of money,

So yes, there are 100 solutions if we want the pension system to be balanced; it no longer is. And the more we wait, the more it will get worse.

And so this reform is necessary. And I say this to the French people, I don't enjoy doing this, I would have preferred not to do this.

But it's also because of a sense of responsibility that I expressed my commitment to do this in front of you.

Emmanuel Macron. President of France

But many see changes such as increasing the retirement age as unfair to people who started working young. 

I am already disadvantaged in terms of my quarterly periods, given my redundancy, given the retirement age, which is being pushed back again and again. I've had a very, very, long career. I started at 15 and I feel like I'll never get there.


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