The French government inflexible in the face of the mobilization
Clément Mahoudeau Agence France-Presse According to a poll published by Le Journal du dimanche, the popularity of Emmanuel Macron collapsed in March, to 28%, at most low since the release, in 2019, of the popular protest movement of yellow vests. It is 70% dissatisfied.
The French government remained adamant on its much-contested pension reform on Sunday, despite fresh protests and violence, on the eve of a vote to try to overthrow it.
A sign of tension in the country, the office of deputy Éric Ciotti in Nice (south-east), also leader of the right-wing Les Républicains (LR) party, was the target of stone throwing overnight from Saturday to Sunday for “ put pressure” and that he votes on Monday the motion of censure to which he is opposed.
Faced with the challenge, several heavyweights of the presidential majority have stepped up to defend the reform, which aims in particular raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The “first objective” of the government “is to carry out this reform to save our pension system”, and “we hold it”, said the Minister of Labor, Olivier Dussopt, to the Journal du dimanche.
“I don't think there will be a majority to bring down the government,” assured his counterpart in the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, to the newspaper Le Parisien. “But it will be a moment of truth. Is pension reform worth yes or no, the fall of the government and political disorder? The answer is clearly no,” he said.
According to a poll published by The Sunday Journal, the popularity of Emmanuel Macron collapsed in March, to 28%, the lowest since the release, in 2019, of the popular protest movement of the Yellow Vests. It's 70% unhappy.
And, after several days of mobilization and demonstrations, the decision on Thursday by the government of Elisabeth Borne to pass this text in force set fire to the powder. He chose to resort to Article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the adoption of a text without a vote, unless a motion of censure is adopted. Since then, organized or spontaneous gatherings have taken place throughout the country, calmly or with excesses.
The protest has effect hardened in recent days, carried by young activists, while strikes continue in transport, refineries and garbage collectors.
A situation which led the authorities to prohibit Saturday any gathering on the large Parisian place of Concorde, close to the National Assembly and the presidential palace of the Élysée. Thousands of people had gathered there, and clashes had broken out on Thursday and Friday evening.
The Parisian demonstrators, some 4,000, according to a police source, retreated to Place d'Italie on Saturday evening. Trash fires littering the streets of the capital, vandalized bus shelters, improvised barricades, clashes with the police… Faced with the thugs, the organizers quickly decided to dissolve the demonstration. In total, the police carried out 169 arrests in France on Saturday, including 122 in Paris, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
If Éric Ciotti has already indicated that his party, LR, would vote for “none” of the motions of no confidence tabled, so as not to “add chaos to chaos”, a handful of deputies from his camp announced that they would vote at least for the cross-partisan motion presented by an independent group.
Like Éric Ciotti, other pro-reform parliamentarians have been targeted by opponents, while, as of Thursday evening, the boss of the deputies of the presidential majority (Renaissance party), Aurore Bergé, had asked the Minister of Interior to “mobilize state services” for the “protection of parliamentarians”.
Towards the shutdown of refineries
The unions had called to step up the mobilization over the weekend, in the face of what they call a “denial of democracy”.
“The Assembly needs to have a sounding board in the street. We must be there to show that we are in deep disagreement with this reform, “explained a demonstrator, Léa Botté, 29, in Lille (north).
The CGT union announced on Saturday that the most large refinery in the country, located in Normandy (north-west) and operated by TotalEnergies, had begun to be shut down, a first since the start of the movement against pension reform.
Very heavy technically, the operation will take several days and should not cause immediate fuel shortages, but it could expand. At least two other refineries out of seven in the country could be shut down by Monday at the latest, the CGT has warned.
French Industry Minister Roland Lescure hinted on Saturday that the government could retaliate by requisitioning agents, as for waste collection in Paris, where around 10,000 tonnes of garbage still litter the sidewalks, according to the town hall.