As a result of his decision to force through a contentious pension overhaul without a vote, French President Emmanuel Macron was met with the gravest challenge to his authority since the so-called Yellow Vest protests on Friday in the French capital of Paris
After Thursday’s violent demonstrations, Parisians gathered again on Friday evening at the city’s Place de la Concorde, close to the Assemblee Nationale parliament building, to hold a new rally.
On Friday, protesters chanted “Macron, Resign!” as they confronted riot police and set fire to the Place de la Concorde.
For the far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, “something fundamental happened,” and that was the immediate occurrence of spontaneous mobilizations across the country. Obviously, I’m on board with that; that’s where the action is.
France’s retirement age will increase from 60 to 64 as a result of the pension reform, which the government claims is necessary to prevent the system from collapsing.
Most voters and unions also disagree with this.
The official retirement age in France is 62, making it one of the lowest in the OECD.
According to a Toluna Harris Interactive survey conducted for RTL radio, 81% of respondents are dissatisfied with the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament, and 65% believe strikes and protests should continue.
To move forward without a vote “is a denial of democracy…a total denial of what has been happening in the streets for several weeks,” psychologist Nathalie Alquier, 52, said in Paris. “I can’t stand it.
France’s largest unions have declared their intention to keep up their mobilization until the government backs down from the reforms they oppose. There will be demonstrations this week, and on Thursday there will be a new day of nationwide industrial action.
The iconic Baccalaureate high school exams may be disrupted by strikes called for by teachers’ unions next week.
Unrest on Thursday was reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices and forced Macron into a partial U-turn on a carbon tax. These protests began in late January and have continued for eight days across the country and many more days of local industrial actions.
Approximately 310 people, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who promised to crack down on troublemakers.
Opposition is legitimate, protests are legitimate, but causing mayhem is not, he said on RTL radio.
Opposition lawmakers from the left and center on Friday afternoon introduced a motion of no confidence in the government.
But since Macron lost his absolute majority in the lower house of parliament in elections last year, there was not much hope that this would pass, unless an unexpected alliance of MPs from all sides, from the far left to the far right, was formed.
The conservative Les Republicains party’s top officials aren’t interested in forming a coalition with the other parties. Until Friday, nobody had backed the first vote of no confidence. It was predicted that the far right would submit another petition later that day.
A few legislators in LR have indicated they might vote against the party line, but the no confidence bill needs the support of the entire opposition and at least half of LR’s 61 legislators to pass.
According to Berenberg’s chief economist, “so far, French governments have usually won in such votes of no confidence,” this trend is likely to continue.
Even though “by trying to bypass parliament, Macron has already weakened his position,” he believed it would be the same this time.
It was expected that parliamentary votes would take place over the weekend or on Monday.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, will be eager to turn the page, and government officials are already working on more compassionate policies. Elisabeth Borne, the prime minister, has been at the forefront of the pension debate, but he has the option of dismissing her at any time.
However, it’s possible that neither of these measures will be effective in calming the public. On Friday, they had made no statements in the media.