The protests multiplied on Saturday in France against the pension reform imposed by decree by the liberal president Emmanuel Macron, in a climate of growing political and social tension, with the start of blockades of refineries.
The authorities prohibited the rallies in the Place de la Concorde in Paris, in front of the National Assembly (chamber of deputies), after two nights of demonstrations that led to incidents with hundreds of arrests.
Waiting for a new day of protests called by the unions next Thursday, sector strikes slow down activity of the second largest economy in the European Union (EU) and tons of garbage are piled up in its main cities.
Macron’s decision to approve the reform through a constitutional provision (article 49.3) that allows him to skip the legislative vote gave new fuel to popular indignation, which had been declining, and radicalized youth groups.
Deputies from opposition forces presented two motions of censure, which will be discussed starting Monday. The approval, in principle difficult, of any of them would annul the presidential decree and would force Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to submit her resignation.
The reform that set the country on fire intends to delay the retirement age from 62 to 64 years by 2030 and advance to 2027 the requirement to contribute 43 years (and not 42 as now) to collect a full pension.
The authorities banned the rallies in the Plaza de la Concordia after two nights of clashes between protesters who threw bottles and flares at the security forces, who in turn responded with tear gas and arrested more than 300 people.
New protests and incidents
A march gathered some 4,000 demonstrators on Saturday, according to a police source, on the Place d’Italie, in a crowded area of Paris.
According to that source, 81 people were detained in and around Place d’Italie, where calm was restored around 10:30 p.m. (21:30 GMT).
“I sit all day in front of a computer, my eyes hurt, I have a headache and I’ve already had two phlebitis,” says a 55-year-old protester, to explain her rejection of the reform.
The organizers of the rally ordered their dispersal when some groups began to burn garbage cans and destroy sheltered bus stops.
Several cities were the theater of other marches, such as Marseille, Brest (west), Toulon or Montpellier.
“What is left for us but to continue demonstrating? The mobilizations were peaceful, until the application of 49.3. Now there is potential for an increase in social tension,” said Romain Morizot, a 33-year-old telecommunications engineer, at the Marseille march, second city of France.
The largest oil refinery in France, located in Normandy (northwest), began to paralyze its facilities on Friday night and others could follow suit starting Monday, union sources said.
Industry Minister Roland Lescure indicated that the government could order personnel requisitions to avoid fuel shortages.
Requisitions of Paris garbage collectors were also ordered to begin clearing some 10,000 tons of waste that accumulates on the streets of the capital.
“Obviously, the President of the Republic is following the situation,” they told AFP in Macron’s environment.
“Denial” of democracy
“What will I answer to the young people who tell me that voting is useless? I elected a deputy, who cannot vote. We are in full denial of democracy,” said Nathalie, a woman in her 30s, who refused to give his last name, in a demonstration of about 300 people in Besançon (east).
One of the no-confidence motions against the government was presented by the independent parliamentary group LIOT and another by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party, defeated by Macron in the second round of the last two presidential elections.
The one presented by LIOT can obtain the maximum support, but it would fall short of about 30 votes out of the 287 necessary (half plus one of the 577 seats) to bring down the government and the reform.
The left-wing Nupes front and Le Pen’s party announced that they would support LIOT’s motion. The missing votes should come from the right-wing opposition party Los Republicanos, which negotiated the pension reform with the ruling party, although with the dissent of some twenty of its legislators.
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