Sunday , April 2 2023

France pension reform protests turn violent again


PARIS: Protesters have clashed with police again in central Paris over the French government’s pension reforms.

Thousands of demonstrators lit fires and some threw firecrackers at police, who used tear gas to disperse them.

It is the second night of unrest since President Emmanuel Macron decided to push through the controversial reforms to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote.

No-confidence motions have been filed against his government in response.

The first was signed by independents and members of the left-wing Nupes coalition in parliament, while a second came from the far-right National Rally party.

Both are expected to be debated early next week.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally MPs in parliament, called the decision to push through the pension changes “a total failure for the government”.

Police made dozens of arrests during the unrest at Place de la Concorde, not far from the parliament building.

Protests also took place on Friday in other French cities notably Bordeaux, Toulon and Strasbourg.

“We won’t give up,” one demonstrator told media. “There’s still hope that the reform can be revoked.”

Another told Reuters that pushing the legislation through without a vote was “a denial of democracy… a total denial of what has been happening in the streets for several weeks”.

The government has said the changes to pensions are essential to ensure the system is not overburdened and prevent it collapsing but many people, including union members, disagree and France has now seen more than two months of heated political debate and strikes over the issue.

Transport, public services and schools have all been affected, while a rolling walkout by waste collectors has seen thousands of tons of rubbish left on the streets of the capital.

Fuel deliveries have also been blocked and there are plans to stop production at a large refinery in Normandy in the coming days.

“Changing the government or prime minister will not put out this fire, only withdrawing the reform,” said the head of the moderate CFDT union, Laurent Berger.

Yesterday, the French government has been forced to push through unpopular pension reforms, to avoid a knife-edge vote in the National Assembly.

Although the plan to raise the pension age from 62 to 64 passed the upper house on Thursday, ministers realized they might not win the support of MPs.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne was jeered as she invoked article 49:3 of the constitution. That power enables the government to avoid a vote in the Assembly.

“We cannot bet on the future of our pensions and this reform is necessary,” the prime minister told a rowdy session of the lower house.

As she took the stand, left-wing MPs sang the national anthem La Marseillaise while holding placards that read “No to 64”.

The session was briefly suspended and when she began to speak she was interrupted with cries of “Resign, Resign!”

Forcing the bill through may be the least bad option for the government, but it’s also fraught with risk. It exposes the government to a censure motion and risks enflaming the country.

The far-right National Rally immediately called a confidence vote, while Marine Le Pen, who challenged Macron for the presidency, said the government’s move was a recognition of his personal failure. (Int’l News Desk)

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