Protesters clash with French police for the second night after Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform

Protesters hold a cutout of French President Emmanuel Macron near a fire in Paris (REUTERS)

French riot police clashed with protesters in Paris on Friday night amid unrest over government plans to raise the state retirement age.

A wave of strikes has left President Emmanuel Macron with the biggest challenge to his authority since the so-called ‘Chalecos Amarillos’ or ‘Yellow Vests’ protests in December 2018.

Videos show police using tear gas to deal with crowd disorder as protesters gathered at Paris’ Place de la Concorde near the Assemblee Nationale parliament building.

“Macron, resign!” some protesters chanted, while others held a cardboard cutout of Macron near a fire.

It follows similar protests on Thursday, after Macron decided to push through the contested pension reform without a parliamentary vote.

The reform raises France’s state retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not break.

But the unions and the majority of voters disagree and want to maintain the retirement age of 62, which is among the lowest in OECD countries.

More than eight in 10 people are unhappy with the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament, and 65 percent want strikes and protests to continue, a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for RTL radio showed.

Going ahead without voting “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. “It’s just unbearable.”

A broad alliance of France’s main unions said they would continue their mobilization to try to force a radical change in the changes.

Protests are planned for this weekend, with a new nationwide industrial day of action scheduled for Thursday.

Protesters run through tear gas during a protest in Paris (AP)

Protesters run through tear gas during a protest in Paris (AP)

Teachers’ unions have called strikes for next week, which could disrupt the iconic Baccalaureate exams.

While eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January, and many more local industrial actions, had been largely peaceful, the riots on Thursday and Friday were reminiscent of the yellow vest protests in late 2018 over high prices. of the fuel, which forced Macron to adopt a partial decision. U-turn in a carbon tax.

Opposition lawmakers from the left and center filed a motion of no confidence in the French parliament on Friday afternoon.

Macron lost his absolute majority in the lower house of parliament in elections last year, but there was little chance he would pass unless a surprise alliance of lawmakers from all sides, from the far left to the far right, is formed. .

Leaders of the conservative Les Republicains (LR) party have ruled out such an alliance. None of them had sponsored the first motion of no confidence presented on Friday. The far right was expected to submit another one later in the day.

Individual LR lawmakers have said they could break ranks, but the no-confidence bill would require all other opposition lawmakers and half of LR’s 61 lawmakers to pass it, which is a tall order.

“Until now, French governments have generally won these votes of no confidence,” said Berenberg chief economist Holger Schmieding.

He hoped it would be the same again this time even if “by trying to bypass parliament, Macron has already weakened his position.”

Votes in parliament are likely to take place over the weekend or on Monday.

Macron will want to turn the page quickly, as government officials are already preparing more socially-minded reforms. He may also choose, at some point, to fire Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who has been at the forefront of the pensions debate.

But either or both movements can do little to quell anger in the streets. None of them had made public comments Friday.

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