Pensions: the test of strength again and again
Demonstration against the pension reform on March 23, 2023 in Paris (AFP / Thomas SAMSON)
Hard blow for Emmanuel Macron: the Élysée announced on Friday the postponement of the state visit of King Charles III to France, the day after a 9th day of demonstrations against the pension reform marked by a renewed mobilization and images unprecedented violence.
The French presidency directly linked, in its press release, the postponement of the visit of the British sovereign (March 26-29) to the announcement by the inter-union of a new day of strikes and demonstrations against the pension reform, Tuesday 28.
A decision taken by the two governments, said the Elysee. But at the request of Paris, according to Downing Street. Charles III was to honor in France his first visit abroad since his accession to the throne.
He was notably expected in Bordeaux, the scene of incidents on Thursday, where the porch of the town hall was notably set on fire.
Traveling to Brussels for a European Council, Emmanuel Macron was to speak at the start of the afternoon.
Political leaders immediately seized on this postponement, starting with opponents of pension reform. “The meeting of kings at Versailles dispersed by popular censorship”, rejoiced the leader of La France insoumise Jean-Luc Mélenchon, in reference to the State dinner which was planned at the castle of the kings of France.
“What would you say to a country which is not able to welcome one of its closest allies with dignity because of the stubbornness of its President?”, added the deputy for Europe Ecology-The Greens, Julien Bayou.
Same tone among the opponents who supported the reform: “what an image for our country of not even being able to ensure the security of a head of state”, reacted the boss of the Republicans (LR), Eric Ciotti.
-Berger asks for “a break”-
This state visit, for which 4,000 police and gendarmes were to be mobilized, raised growing questions, reinforced by the day of demonstrations on Thursday.
Entering its third month, the protest in the street against the reform gathered Thursday between 1.089 million demonstrators (Interior) and 3.5 million (CGT).
The secretary general of the CFDT Laurent Berger demanded on Friday that the government put “on hold” the pension reform and open a more global negotiation with the unions, which would include for example “the employment of seniors”, “wear and tear in the work” or “end-of-career arrangements”.
We must “give ourselves six months to look, and on work and on pensions, how we must take things back to where they are”, he declared on RTL, believing that “we must calm things down before let there be a tragedy”.
“Everyone must call for calm,” said the president (Renaissance) of the National Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet.
In the street on Thursday, demonstrators expressed their anger at the 49.3 used by the government and the intervention of the President of the Republic on Wednesday.
The unions, reassured by the mobilization figures, were also cheered up by processions where young people clearly came in greater numbers.
High schools were again blocked on Friday morning, like the Lycée Condorcet in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. The Ministry of National Education has identified 12 blockages, as many filter blockages, 10 attempted blockages and 4 other forms of disturbance (assembly, distribution of leaflets). The high school student unions Fidl and the Voix lycéenne are calling for a mobilization from Monday and until the end of the week.
The door of the town hall of Bordeaux after being set on fire by demonstrators opposed to the pension reform, March 23, 2023 (AFP / PHILIPPE LOPEZ)
The violence, which had so far been only sporadic, made a spectacular appearance on Thursday.
Door of the town hall of Bordeaux set on fire, “scenes of chaos” denounced by the mayor of Rennes, water cannons in Lille and Toulouse, demonstrator with a thumb torn off in Rouen, police station targeted in Lorient (Morbihan) … Violence “unacceptable”, judged Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
– 457 arrests –
In Paris, violence broke out at the head of the demonstration with their share of broken windows and destroyed street furniture, and incidents continued late into the evening in the wake of so-called “wild” processions, contrary to a parade where the vast majority of protesters marched peacefully.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reported Friday 457 arrests, and 441 injured in the ranks of the police.
Mr. Darmanin also mentioned eleven judicial investigations entrusted to the General Inspectorate of the National Police, while many officials or observers evoke a hardening of the maintenance of order.
“We have a deeply political crisis, which calls for a political response and we are providing a police response,” denounced LFI deputy François Ruffin on BFMTV.
A demonstrator throws an object towards the police during a mobilization against the pension reform, on March 23, 2023 in Toulouse (AFP / Charly TRIBALLEAU)
And the anti-basin mobilizations in Deux-Sèvres this weekend promise a big challenge for the executive.
He remains inflexible on his reform. Emmanuel Macron had defended tooth and nail on Wednesday a “necessary” reform for public finances, assuming his “unpopularity”.
At the end of this new episode of a conflict which is bogged down, the political leaders of the left have invited the French to further amplify the dispute.
Demonstrators break the window of a shop on the sidelines of a mobilization against the pension reform, March 23, 2023 in Paris (AFP / Alain JOCARD)
For Marine Le Pen (RN) “Emmanuel Macron can no longer govern alone, he must now come back to the people”.
The energy sector – gas, oil, electricity – remains particularly mobilized but the supply of fuel to the Paris basin by the large TotalEnergies refinery in Gonfreville-L’Orcher in Normandy resumed on Friday after an intervention by the forces of the order.
© 2023 AFP
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