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Protests erupt over pension reform in France

Mar 18, 2023

Paris [France], March 18: The French government faces fierce protests after pushing for controversial pension reforms without a vote in the lower house.
Speaking in the lower house of parliament on March 16, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced she would activate article 49.3 of the constitution to bypass the vote on the controversial pension reform bill. The move will ensure that the new bill, which raises the retirement age from 62 to 64, is passed after weeks of protests and fierce debate, according to Reuters. The French government argues that raising the pension age is necessary to ensure the pension system does not collapse.
"There is a problem with democracy"
However, the move by the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron met with strong opposition across the country. AurelienPradie, a lawmaker from a right-wing opposition party, said the move by the Macron administration "risks disrupting democracy in this country", according to BFM TV. "We have a democracy problem. This law, which will change the lives of French people, was passed without a vote in the lower house," Mr. Pradie said.
While Prime Minister Borne spoke in the lower house, a spontaneous demonstration of about 7,000 people against pension reform continued throughout the night in the Concorde square in Paris. "As a citizen, I feel like I'm being cheated. In a democracy, it should be through a vote," said teacher Laure Cartelier, 55, attending the meeting. join the demonstration, said.
Around 8 p.m. on March 16 (local time), police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters after a fire was lit in the center of Concorde square, according to AFP. Even after the demonstration was dispersed, some protesters began setting fires and damaging the facades of several shops on nearby streets. By 23:30, Paris police announced that 217 people had been arrested on suspicion of trying to cause damage.
Similar scenes happened in many other French cities. Several shops were looted during protests in the city of Marseille, while clashes between protesters and security forces broke out in the cities of Nantes and Rennes. Trade unions in France also called for another day of strikes and mass protests on March 23.
"Completely fail"
The French Senate approved the pension reform bill earlier on March 16, but the lack of right-wing opposition MPs in the lower house of parliament means that the government faces defeat in the lower house . institute. Using the special constitutional power to pass a bill without a vote would also mean acknowledging that the government lacks the majority of votes to raise the retirement age. "It is a complete failure for the government," far-right leader Marine Le Pen was quoted as saying by AFP.
The French government's passage of the pension reform bill without a vote is likely to further anger unions, protesters and left-wing opposition parties, who say the bill is unfair. equal and unnecessary, according to Reuters. Polls show that two-thirds of French people oppose a major pension reform.
In addition, Antoine Bristielle, a public opinion expert at the Jean-Jaures consultancy (France), said that promulgating such an important law without a vote of the lower house risks making for the French people to feel more discontent and deepen anti-Macron sentiments, according to AFP.
After failing to push for pension reform during his first term, President Macron returned to the issue when he campaigned for re-election in April 2022. However, he lost his majority in parliament in June 2022 after the lower house elections. President Macron has made no public comment on his government's push for a pension reform bill on March 16. AFP quoted a source revealing that when explaining this move during a closed cabinet meeting on the same day, President Macron emphasized: "People cannot play with the future of the country".
Source: ThanhNien Newspaper

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