France erupts as Macron moves to force through raising the pension age

Photo by Jean-Francois Monier/AFP: Marching against pension change

By Ben Wilson

French President Emmanuel Macron is facing an enormous backlash against his attempt to force through a rise in the pension age from 62 to 64. Facing the possibility of a loss in the parliament, Macron used the controversial and unpopular 49.3 special powers, which provide the means to avoid a vote. This time he faced the prospect of some of his Renaissance party members crossing the floor.

These powers have been increasingly used since the government lost its majority in the last election in June last year.

Protests against the latest move to increase he pension age were immediate. French citizens hit the streets, and they have gone on since without letup. In some Cases, notably in the capital Paris, police moved in with batons and shields, and used teargas and water cannon. Similar scenes have been seen in other major cities like Rennes, Nantes, Lyon, Marseille, and Bordeaux.

France pension protests
Video from CNN News 18

Unions have vowed to keep on fighting to protect pension rights that they had fought for in the past.

Justifying the move, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne told the lower house of parliament, known as the National Assembly:

“We cannot bet on the future of our pensions and this reform is necessary,”

Most French do not agree.

Macron Has threatened to dissolve the Assembly and call new elections. The threat is not likely to materialise because there is a very good chance he would lose.

Protests sweep France after pension reform is forced through by Macron.
Video from, Time

Macron’s insistence on the pension change rests on the argument that the government can not afford to keep it as it is. It doesn’t wash with the lectorate, which see this as a government favouring the big end of own and making them pay for it. And this sentiment is cutting through the political spectrum. The widely held belief is that a shift towards autocracy is gathering pace and this is a threat.

Unions and others are demanding that if the government has some difficulty in finding the money to pay for pensions and other needs, it can solve the problem by taxing the ultra-rich, who can afford to contribute to the general wellbeing.

Macron faces new fury after forcing through France pension law
Video from France 24 English

This is exactly what the Spanish government just across the southern border is doing. It has agreed to tax the top income earners to face for its age pension.

Opinion polls are saying the majority of French are not on the government’s side. Macron is staying fast to his position.

This is the biggest challenge to Macron since the Yellow Vest protests and is undermining Macron’s and his government’s legitimacy overall. Ultimately, this is what is at stake. No doubt there is growing worry in the corridors of power over the growing restlessness, anger, and preparedness to act of the population.

Moves to increase the retirement age and failure to maintain the value of the age pension has gone through much more easily in other European countries and other parts of the world. The French resistance against this might serve as an example to encourage other to follow the example.

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