New pension protests in France ahead of crucial votes

PARIS: France faces another day of protests on Sunday against a fiercely controversial pension reform passed by the President Emmanuel Macrongovernment, the day before a crucial vote of no confidence 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 across from parliament to protests after two nights of clashes. consecutive degree.
Several individual lawmakers have been targeted, with Eric Ciotti – the head of the conservative Republican party not expected to support no-confidence motions – discovering early Sunday that the His constituency office was stoned overnight.
“The killers who did this want to put pressure on my vote on Monday,” Ciotti wrote on Twitter, posting pictures showing smashed windows and threatening graffiti.
More than 80 people were arrested during a 4,000-person protest in Paris on Saturday, where some burned trash cans, destroyed bus stops and erected homemade barricades.
And another 15 people were detained in Lyon after police said “violent groups of individuals” had caused the clashes.
Other protests in cities across France have been peaceful, with hundreds taking part in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.
“What do we have left but continue to prove?” speak Romain Morizota 33-year-old telecommunications engineer, at a demonstration in Marseille.
After the government used a constitutional provision to bypass a parliamentary vote on pension reform, “it will now cause social tension everywhere,” Morizot added.
“We will continue, we have no choice.”
Away from the streets of major cities, the left-wing CGT union on Saturday said workers would shut down France’s largest oil refinery in Normandy, warning that two more could follow on Monday. Two.
So far, the strikers have only prevented fuel shipments from leaving the refineries but have not halted operations altogether.
Industrial activity has also halted garbage collection in much of Paris, with around 10,000 tonnes of trash now spilling onto 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 the president was “of course monitoring developments” on the ground.
In addition to raising the retirement age, Macronthe reform also increases the number of years people have to pay into the system to receive a full pension.
The government says its changes are needed to avoid a crippling deficit 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 in physically required jobs, and polls have consistently shown a majority to oppose it. for changes.
A survey of 2,000 people published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday gave Macron an approval rating of 28%, the lowest since the “yellow vest” mass protests against the fuel tax. new material in 2019.
After Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used Article 49.3 of the constitution to pass legislation without a vote in the House of Commons, the opposition’s last hope to block reforms was to topple the government by one of the votes. vote of no confidence on Monday.
Labor Secretary Olivier Dussopt told JDD it was “not an admission of defeat, but heartbreaking” to have used the nuclear solution to pass reforms.
The pension changes are “too important to risk playing Russian roulette,” he added, after weeks of concessions Republicans – long advocates of raising the retirement age – have failed to attract enough. Conservative MPs joined to secure a majority.
Few lawmakers in the hard-core Republican party are expected to vote against the government in Monday’s votes of no-confidence, led by a small group of centrist MPs and the far-right National Rally Party. show.
Ciotti said he did not want to “add chaos to chaos”.


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