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Marches, strikes and no-confidence vote: How France reacted to Macron's pension reform move

The Local France
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Marches, strikes and no-confidence vote: How France reacted to Macron's pension reform move
Protesters march along the quays of the Seine in Paris towards Place de la Concorde during a demonstration after the French government used Article 49.3 to push pensions reform through (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

Demonstrations took place across France on Thursday after the announcement that Emmanuel Macron's government had pushed through highly controversial pension reform without a vote by lawmakers in the National Assembly.

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Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told parliament on Thursday afternoon that there would be no vote on the pension reform bill, just minutes before the debates and subsequent vote was due to take place.

Her announcement was greeted by shouts of anger inside the parliament - and outrage outside.

Demos have begun in Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Grenoble, Albi and Dijon, and unions are calling for a fresh round of strikes.

By the evening several hundred people had gathered in Place de la Concorde in Paris to express their anger and dozens of riot police were also in the square.

Demonstrators in Dijon were filmed burning effigies of Macron and Borne, plus labour minister Olivier Dussopt and government spokesman Olivier Véran.

 

The entrance to the Culture Ministry was occupied by demonstrators.

 

 

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Strikes

Meanwhile Laurent Berger, head of France's largest union federation the CFDT, announced 'new mobilisations' against the decision, saying on Twitter: "By using Article 49.3 the government is demonstrating that it does not have a majority to approve the postponement of the legal retirement age by two years. The political compromise has failed. It is the workers who must be listened to when one claims to act on their work."

Pension reform has already been the cause of weeks of highly disruptive strikes with more likely to follow - although Berger did not announce details of further actions.

Philippe Martinez, leader of the hardline CGT union, said "strikes must be amplified" after the use of Article 49.3.

Union leaders will meet on Thursday evening to decide their strategy.

French political journalist Maxime Sirvins predicted widespread protest, simply tweeted a picture of a demonstrator holding a flare with the caption '49.3'.

 

Meanwhile satirical magazine le Canard Enchaine posted a cartoon aboutthe risk of wildfires, listing the most inflammable things in France as 'cigarette butts, garden fires and Article 49.3'.

 

Political reaction

The decision was also greeted with fury by opposition politicians.

Former left-wing presidential candidate and head of the France Insoumise party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon tweeted that "The #ReformeDesRetraites has no parliamentary legitimacy. It is a spectacular failure and a collapse from the presidential minority. United unions call for continued action. This is what we are going to focus on".

Mélenchon was interviewed while marching in the procession near Place de la Concorde in Paris on Thursday afternoon.

Head of the French Communist Party and former presidential candidate, Fabien Roussel, told Franceinfo that the move was a "violent middle finger against the French people".

Louis Boyard, a member of the left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI) party tweeted: "He does not have a majority in the country. He does not have a majority in Parliament. So Macron chooses Article 49.3. This is no longer just a fight for workers, it is a fight for democracy. The President is fighting against the people so keep fighting, don't let go".

Others have gone so far as to compare the French president to a monarch.

"The monarch has decided: it will be 49.3," tweeted far-left MP and former journalist François Ruffin. "They crush democracy as they crush working France. It is the day for them to be defeated: after having lost their hold on the country, they are losing their footing in the National Assembly. Macron is the nation's problem."

It wasn't only those on the left who criticised the government - MPs from the centre-right Les Républicains party which had been expected to support the pension reform, were also angry.

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One LR member, like Pierre-Henri Dumont, said: "When we are elected as representatives, we are not chosen to just have a nice time. We are chosen to vote and make good choices on behalf of the citizens (...) The best choice in this situation would be to tell this government that enough is enough, that these methods of governance are not those that should be put in place (...) If it has to go through a motion of no confidence, it will go through a motion of no-confidence".

The far-right National Rally party (RN) of Marine Le Pen, the former presidential candidate who now leads the RN deputies in parliament, had previously threatened to table a motion of no-confidence in the event that the controversial Article 49.3 was used, and this was echoed again on Thursday. 

The decision is a "total failure" for President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne "cannot stay" in her post, Le Pen told AFP.

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