New pension protests in France ahead of crucial votes

PARIS: France faced another day of protests on Sunday against a bitterly contested pension reform imposed by the president Emmanuel Macrongovernment, a day before crucial no-confidence votes in parliament.
After weeks of peaceful strikes and marches against raising the official retirement age from 62 to 64, police on Saturday closed the Place de la Concorde opposite Parliament for protests after two successive nights of clashes .
Some individual lawmakers have been targeted, Eric Ciotti – the leader of the conservative Republican party who is not expected to back no-confidence motions – discovered early Sunday that his constituency office had been pelted with rocks overnight.
“The killers who did this want to pressure my vote on Monday,” Ciotti wrote on Twitter, posting photos showing shattered windows and menacing graffiti.
More than 80 people were arrested on Saturday during a Parisian demonstration of 4,000 people where some set fire to garbage cans, destroyed bus stops and erected improvised barricades.
And 15 others were detained in Lyon after police said “groups of violent individuals” sparked clashes.
Other protests in cities across France passed off peacefully, with hundreds of people in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.
“What do we have left except to continue to demonstrate? said Romain Morizot33-year-old telecoms engineer at the Marseille demonstration.
After the government used a constitutional provision to circumvent a parliamentary vote on pension reform, “now it will stoke social tensions everywhere,” Morizot added.
“We will continue, we have no choice”.
Away from the streets of big cities, the far-left CGT union said on Saturday that workers would close France’s biggest oil refinery in Normandy, warning that two more could follow on Monday.
So far, the strikers have only stopped fuel deliveries from leaving refineries, but not completely halted operations.
Industrial action has also halted garbage collection in much of Paris, with around 10,000 tonnes of rubbish now on the streets as the government forces some garbage collectors back to work.
A ninth day of broader strikes and protests is scheduled for Thursday.
People close to Macron told AFP that the president was “of course following developments” on the ground.
Along with raising the overall retirement age, MacronThe reform also increases the number of years that people must contribute to the system to receive a full pension.
The government says its changes are necessary to avoid crippling deficits in the coming decades linked to France’s aging population.
But opponents say the law places an unfair burden on low-income people, women and people who work in jobs wearing physical clothing, and polls have consistently shown majorities opposed to the changes.
A survey of 2,000 people published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday gave Macron an approval rating of 28%, his lowest since the 2019 mass “yellow vest” protests against a new tax on workers. fuels.
After Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used Article 49.3 of the Constitution to pass the law without a vote in the lower house of the National Assembly, the last hope of opponents to block the reform is to overthrow the government during the one of Monday’s votes of no confidence.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt told the JDD that “it’s not an admission of failure, but it’s heartbreaking” to have used the nuclear option to push through the reform.
The pension changes were “too big to risk playing Russian roulette”, he added, after weeks of concessions to Republicans – long in favor of raising the retirement age – failing to rally enough Conservative MPs to secure a majority.
Few lawmakers from the split group of Republicans are expected to vote against the government in Monday’s no-confidence motions, presented by a small group of centrist lawmakers and the far-right National Rally.
Ciotti said he didn’t want to “add chaos to chaos”.


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