New pension protests in France ahead of crucial vote

PARIS. France faced another day of protests on Sunday against the president’s hotly contested pension reforms. Emmanuel Macrongovernment, one day before the decisive vote of no confidence in the parliament.
After weeks of peaceful strikes and marches against raising the official retirement age from 62 to 64, police closed off the Palais de la Concorde square to demonstrations in front of parliament on Saturday after two nights of clashes.
Some individual lawmakers were targeted, and Eric Ciotti, head of the conservative Republican Party, was expected not to support the motions of no confidence.
“The killers who did this want to pressure me to vote on Monday,” Ciotti wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of broken glass and threatening graffiti.
More than 80 people were arrested during a 4,000-strong demonstration in Paris on Saturday, where some set fire to rubbish bins, vandalized bus stops and erected makeshift barricades.
And 15 others were arrested in Lyon after what police said were “groups of violent individuals” sparking the clashes.
Demonstrations in other cities around France were peaceful, with hundreds taking part in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.
“What is left but to show us?” said Romain MorisotA 33-year-old telecommunications engineer at the Marseille protest.
After the government used a constitutional clause to bypass a parliamentary vote on pension reforms, “now it will raise social tensions everywhere,” Morisot added.
“We will continue, we have no choice.”
Away from the streets of major cities, the far-left CGT union announced on Saturday that workers would shut down France’s largest oil refinery in Normandy, warning that two more could follow on Monday.
So far, the strikers have only prevented fuel deliveries from refineries, but not stopped operations entirely.
The industrial action has also halted garbage collection in much of Paris, where around 10,000 tonnes of trash are now on the streets, as the government forces some petrol trucks to return to work.
Thursday is scheduled to be the ninth day of wider strikes and protests.
People close to Macron told AFP that the president was “of course following local developments”.
Along with the increase of the basic retirement age, MacroThe reform also increases the number of years people must pay into the system to receive a full pension.
The government says its changes are necessary to avoid a deficit in coming decades due to France’s aging population.
But opponents say the law places an unfair burden on low-income earners, women and physically challenged people, and polls have consistently shown majorities against the changes.
A poll of 2,000 people published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday gave Macron an approval rating of 28 percent, the lowest since the 2019 mass “yellow vest” protests against a new fuel tax.
After Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne used Article 49.3 of the constitution to pass the law without a vote in the lower house, the National Assembly, opponents’ last hope to block the reforms is to topple the government in a no-confidence vote on Monday.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt told JDD that “it’s not an admission of failure, but it’s heartbreaking” that he used the nuclear option to pass the reforms.
The pension changes were “too important to risk playing Russian roulette,” he added, after weeks of concessions to Republicans who have long favored raising the retirement age failed to secure enough conservative lawmakers to secure it. the majority.
Several Republican caucus lawmakers are expected to vote against the government in a no-confidence motion on Monday, brought forward by a small group of centrist lawmakers and the far-right National Rally.
Ciotti said he didn’t want to “add chaos to chaos.”

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