Friday, March 24, 2023

Protests in France over raising the retirement age – Usky News

Paris: President of France Emmanuel MacronWashington’s government pushed a controversial pension reform through parliament without a vote on Thursday, sparking angry protests in Paris and other cities as well as an uproar in the legislature.
Using a special constitutional power to enable the government to pass legislation without a vote amounts to an admission that the government lacks a majority to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The Senate had adopted the bill earlier on Thursday, but a reluctance in favor of Macron by right-wing opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly meant the government was defeated in the lower house.
Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne told MPs, “We cannot afford to watch 175 hours of parliamentary debate.”
Thousands gathered in front of parliament in the historic Place de la Concorde in central Paris, watched by riot police.
Laure Cartelier, a 55-year-old schoolteacher, expressed her outrage, saying, “I am very angry with what is happening. I feel that I am being betrayed as a citizen.” “In a democracy, it should have been through a vote.”
At around 8:00 (1900 GMT), police used tear gas and water cannon to clear away protesters, who after a fire broke out in the center of the square near an Egyptian obelisk that had stood there for nearly 200 years happened.
Paris police said some 120 people had been arrested on suspicion of attempted sabotage.
AFP correspondents said that even after the rally had dispersed, some protesters continued to set fires and damage roadside shops.
AFP correspondents said several shops were looted during protests in the southern city of Marseille, while clashes broke out between protesters and security forces in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, as well as in Lyon in the southeast.
Trade unions and political analysts warned that adopting the law without a vote by invoking Article 49.3 of the constitution risked radicalizing opponents and would undermine the law’s democratic legitimacy.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen told reporters, “This is a complete failure of the government.” “From the beginning the government fooled itself into thinking it had a majority.”
Two-thirds of French people oppose changes to pensions, according to polls.
Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist Party, said, “When a president does not have a majority in the country, does not have a majority in the National Assembly, he must withdraw his bill.”
Some opposition parties, including Le Pen, are set to table a motion of no confidence in the centrist government on Friday, but Born’s cabinet is expected to survive because of support from the right-wing Republican Party.
Unions immediately called for a massive strike and protests the following Thursday, calling the government’s move a “complete denial of democracy”.
Antoine Bristielle, an opinion expert at the Fondation Jean-Jaures think-tank, told AFP that implementing such a crucial law without a vote of parliament risks further protests and deepening anti-Macron sentiment in the country.
Opinion polls showed nearly eight out of 10 people opposed such legislation, while a growing number of people were losing faith in French democracy, he said.
After trying and failing to push through pension reform during his first term, Macron returned to the issue last April during his re-election campaign.
But they lost their parliamentary majority in June following elections to the National Assembly.
Despite a day of high drama, Macron made no public comment on the matter on Thursday.
“You can’t play with the future of the country,” he said at a closed-door cabinet meeting on Thursday morning as he justified the move, according to one participant.
Trains, schools, public services and ports have been affected by the strike since January amid some of the biggest protests in decades.
A rolling strike by municipal waste collectors in Paris has left some 7,000 tonnes of uncollected garbage in the streets, which attracts rats and frustrates tourists.
Images showed protesters in Paris and other cities taking advantage of the situation to set garbage on fire.
The political implications of forcing through a reform opposed by the majority of the population are uncertain.
Head of CGT Union, Phillip Martinezwarned this week that Macron risked “giving the key” to Le Pen’s presidency at the next election in 2027, when Macron would not be allowed a third term under the French constitution.


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