Macron does not back down on pension reform: besieged by the French
Emmanuel Macron is under siege. A non-trivial part of his France is revolting against the pension reform that has been the old workhorse of the president since his first term. If then he decided to postpone his plans for fear of jeopardizing his re-election to the Elysée, this time Macron seems convinced to go all the way. With the risk of unleashing a new challenge on the squares and streets of France as has already happened in the past with the yellow vests.
On the other hand, French Labor Minister Oliver Dussopt stated that raising the retirement age to 64 is “non-negotiable”, a day after more than a million people marched in protest against the proposed measure and a union leader called for all-out strikes. Opinion polls show a substantial majority in France oppose raising the retirement age to 64 from 62, a move President Macron says is vital to ensure the sustainability of the pension system.
The government argues that the changes are essential to ensure the future financing of the pension system, which is expected to run into deficits in the coming years. But political opponents and unions argue that the system is currently in balance, noting that the head of the Independent Advisory Council on Pensions he recently told Parliament that “pension spending is not out of control, it is relatively contained”.
More than a million citizens in the streets, even the municipalities are protesting
A total of more than one million people took part in nationwide protests on Tuesday, a slight increase from the first nationwide demonstration on Jan. 19, the interior ministry said. And the prospect is that participation will continue to increase. The leader of the left-wing union CGT Philippe Martinez he called for further industrial action, accusing the government of downplaying opposition to his reform.
“I believe in rolling strikes. The government is trying to minimize discontent. The prime minister and the president are leading us to this. They are playing tug of war,” he told France Inter radio. For unions, however, the challenge will be to maintain strikes at a time when high inflation is eroding wages. In a joint press conference following Tuesday’s march, union leaders said they would organize more strikes and demonstrations against the reform on February 7, a Tuesday, but also on February 11, a Saturday when most people are not work.
The problem for Macron is that the issue has obviously become political. With the revolt that doesn’t stop at ordinary people, but also reaches the palaces of power. Some left-run town halls closed completely or partially in solidarity with the protests, cincluding the Paris City Hall, sparking the anger of ministers. On the occasion of the Parisian protest, the socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo accused the government of “shameful lies” for arguing that changing pensions was necessary.
Macron, besieged like a sovereign of past centuries, does not seem willing to give in. Indeed, he has repeatedly told the French that “they must work harder” and has made the pension issue an indicator of his goal to transform France and to overhaul its social model and welfare system. In recent days, the government has tightened its tone to reiterate that there will be changes: the raising of the retirement age for most people and the increase in the years of contributions required to obtain a full pension.
It all crosses over to the recent new measures that they equip with special powers the police and security forces on the occasion and in view of the Paris 2024 Olympics. With therefore the criticism and the fear that these special powers could be used to stifle the protests.
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