June 5, 2023

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Macron addresses the French in an attempt to quell anger over the “forced” passage of the pension reform law.

President Emmanuel Macron finally broke his silence on Wednesday and returned to the French side after days of absence in a live television interview on the pension reform approved last week. Social tension increased in France.

President Macron held talks with government members and majority leaders on Tuesday, starting with Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne, narrowly avoiding toppling his government after the National Assembly rejected a no-confidence motion against him by nine votes on Monday. In the wake of his passing of the Pension Reform Bill.

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Following a meeting Tuesday morning at the Elysee Palace that included members of the government and the presidential camp, one of the participants confirmed that Macron did not want to dissolve parliament, conduct a cabinet reshuffle or hold a referendum on pension reform. , but he asked for proposals to be submitted “within two to three weeks at the most” aimed at “changing the style and agenda of reforms”.

The law was adopted on Monday based on Article 49.3 of the constitution, which allows a bill to be passed without a vote in the National Assembly (Parliament) unless a no-confidence motion leads to the overthrow of the government. In particular, the law provides for raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, which has sparked public outrage.

One of the crowd participants quoted Macron as saying on Tuesday, “The crowd, whatever they are, has no legitimacy in the face of the people expressing sovereignty through elected officials.” “The riots will not overwhelm the people’s representatives,” he added.

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The government considers the changes necessary to avoid pension system shortfalls in the coming decades due to an aging population in France, while the country’s retirement age is one of the lowest in Europe, but opponents reject these arguments.

Anger is growing at the French president, who called for pension reform before his election.

Young people in Paris and Toulouse chanted, “Macron, let’s start again! Louis XVI, we cut off his head!”, referring to the French Revolution. They chanted. At a rally in Chateauroux in early March, protesters waved the head of a doll like him held by a wooden handle.

It is reminiscent of the yellow coat crisis of 2018-2019, which erupted after a fuel tax hike and lasted for months with road and roundabout closures and mass and sometimes violent rallies every Saturday.

“Put out the fire”

Protests have continued across France since the government passed a bill to reform the pension system without a vote in parliament, with spontaneous demonstrations breaking out, sometimes halted by tensions with police.

About 855 people were arrested in the country between Thursday and Monday, Interior Minister Gerald Dormanin said.

The Left condemned the “arbitrary arrests”. On the other hand, the Prime Minister praised the police and gendarmerie, recalling their “duty to lead by example”.

For her part, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right, warned in an interview with the French news agency that she would not participate in “putting out the fire” “ignited” by Emmanuel Macron and the administration. “The government is consciously creating all the conditions for a social explosion,” he said.

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A strike by garbage collectors continues in several cities, including Paris. Many refineries are still closed. 12 percent of gas stations in France ran out of fuel. Protesters are blocking roads and causing traffic jams in the country.

The CGT union confirmed on Thursday, the day of the expected action, that “nothing will weaken the determination of workers”.

Politically, the left is calling for a referendum in which the French vote to set the legal retirement age at 62, but the practice is complicated.

The opposition also relies on the Constitutional Council to consider reform. The far-right also demanded that the text be “trashed”.

Just hours before Emmanuel Macron’s expected televised interview at 12:00 GMT, the far-left deputy, Alexis Corpier, called for “no repeat (of Article 49.3)”. “If he appears on television again and says the same thing: I don’t care about your opinion … the demonstration on Thursday will be strong,” he predicted.

France 24/AFP