France: far fewer protesters against pension reform
The number of demonstrators fell sharply for the 11th day of action against Emmanuel Macron's pension reform, marked by some violence, in an increasingly tense climate between the trade unions and the executive, who is betting on a breathlessness of the movement.
They were 570,000 to march across the country, against 740,000 during the last day of action on March 28, according to the authorities. The unions estimated national attendance at “nearly 2 million”, a figure slightly down according to them, when the CGT union had then counted “more than 2 million” protesters.
In Paris, the police headquarters counted 57,000 demonstrators, against 93,000 a week ago. The CGT union counted 400,000 people in the streets of the capital, against 450,000 protesters last Thursday.
Participation has withered in the main French cities. In Rennes (west), the usual stronghold of protest, the prefecture only counted 8,500 demonstrators and the unions 20,000. Same tendency to run out of steam in Marseille (south, 10,000 to 170,000), or Clermont-Ferrand (center, 7,500 to 20,000).
Some outbursts of violence punctuated the processions.
A restaurant in the south of Paris that has become a symbol of the French president, who celebrated his qualification for the second round of the presidential election there in 2017, was attacked. “La Rotonde”, already the victim of an attempted fire during the marches of the “yellow vests” in 2020, this time saw its awning briefly catch fire, before the firefighters intervened.
A bank was also vandalized in the capital, where the prefecture reported “injuries” among the police. According to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, 111 arrests took place throughout the territory and 154 police officers and gendarmes were injured.
In Nantes (west), clashes took place for more than of three hours between demonstrators throwing projectiles and committing degradations, and the police, noted AFP. In Nancy (east), the porch of a branch of the Banque de France was set on fire.
For its part, the government is hunkering down pending the decision of the Constitutional Council, which will rule on April 14 on the constitutionality of this very unpopular reform. This high court can censor the law, validate it totally or partially.
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“I do not expect much from the Constitutional Council”, commented in Brest (west) Bastien Caban, 36, a framework in the associative environment, who wants to believe in the ability of the executive to “recognize (that he) wrongly”. In Strasbourg (north-east), Halima Hamoussa, 54, president of the autonomous union FA-FPT, on the contrary said she hoped that the Constitutional Council “agrees with us and withdraws this law”.
The Flagship project of Emmanuel Macron's second term is on track after being passed by forceps on March 20 following weeks of demonstrations and fruitless negotiations in the National Assembly.
The use of a constitutional mechanism allowing adoption without a vote in Parliament did not disarm the opposition and the unions. On the contrary, relations between the Head of State and the social partners, in particular the central reformist CFDT, are turning sour.
A meeting on Wednesday between Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and the inter-union -counting 8 organizations- came to a halt, the unions speaking of “failure”, the CGT even denouncing an “obtuse, radicalized and disconnected government”.
From China, Emmanuel Macron for his part replied via his entourage by insisting on a project “democratically supported” and by rejecting the responsibility for the failure of the dialogue on the unions, in particular the CFDT, which “did not want to enter in a compromise”.
“I say + stop provocation +. It doesn't make sense, we're not in a ring. It's not me the problem ”, retorted Thursday Laurent Berger, the boss of the CFDT, a reformist union, while the conflict seems to be turning to the advantage of the extreme right of Marine Le Pen, opposed to the reform. but discreet since the start of the conflict.
According to a poll published on Wednesday, 47% of French people consider that the leader of the National Rally “has the stature of a President of the Republic”, up 5 points in one year, and that it is “capable of reforming the country” (51%, +8 points).
The unions called Thursday evening for a 12th day of mobilization, April 13, to the day before the decision of the Constitutional Council. At the International Monetary Fund, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva considered this reform “inevitable” in France, but according to her it requires “building a consensus”.