Police in Paris clashed with protesters over pension reforms. The French government decided to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote in parliament, which sparked two months of debate and strikes. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne used article 49:3 of the constitution to avoid a vote in the Assembly.
The decision to withdraw the controversial bill was made just before the scheduled vote, as there was no guarantee of winning a majority.
This angered opposition politicians, who jeered the prime minister and protested in parliament. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen suggested filing a no-confidence motion against President Macron’s government, while left-wing party leader Mathilde Panot accused Macron of causing a government crisis without legitimacy.
Thousands of people protested in Paris and other French cities against proposed pension changes, with some clashing with police. The Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) union has vowed to continue opposing the changes, with further strikes and demonstrations planned for 23 March. By nightfall, 120 people had been arrested in Paris.
The way the government is trying to change the pension system in France has caused a lot of anger. This process is part of the country’s constitution and is well-known in politics. Even though President Macron promised to reform retirement, his party doesn’t have enough votes to pass the changes without help from the Republicans.
Officials from Mr Macron’s party worked hard to get their members to support the bill, as they were aware that some MPs might vote against it or not vote at all due to the bill’s unpopularity. To ensure the bill’s passage, they used special constitutional powers.
The 49:3 is a controversial tool used by the French government to pass laws without a parliamentary vote. It has been used 100 times in the past 60 years, and is often criticized for ignoring the will of the people. It is typically used by governments without a parliamentary majority, such as the current socialist government.
The procedure can be used to avoid a potential loss in a vote, but it also opens up the possibility of a vote of no-confidence from opposition parties. If this vote passes, the government would fall. While this is a possibility, it is unlikely as it would require a coalition of far-right, left, and conservative opposition parties.
The ongoing pension dispute in France is making the country appear resistant to change, despite the fact that the proposed changes are not as drastic as in other European countries. Opponents of the bill have labeled it as harsh and degrading, leading to low morale among the French population who see retirement as a beacon of hope. Many believe that the government is taking away even this small comfort from the people.
On Wednesday, December 5th, Paris was rocked by violence as thousands of protesters clashed with police, toppling barricades and throwing objects, resulting in at least 103 arrests. The protests were in response to an unpopular pension reform plan, proposed by the government of President Emmanuel Macron, that would combine the current 42 pension schemes into a single, points-based system. The plan has caused outrage among unions, which fear that retirees will receive lower benefits and that working hours will be extended.
The scale of the protest surprised even organizers, who had initially expected only a few thousand people to attend. Instead, between 20,000 and 45,000 protesters flooded the streets, marching from city hall to the glass-domed Invalides, the military hospital where Napoleon is buried. As the demonstration gained momentum and numbers, pockets of violence erupted. Footage from the scene showed protesters scaling buildings, battling with police in full riot gear, and setting barricades in the middle of the roads alight.
The riots stretched into the evening as police fired tear gas into packed crowds, mainly youths, and some protesters began to build barricades with construction materials and furniture. Police vans circled the city, their blue and white lights flashing in the night sky, while the police force began to direct traffic away from the protest sites in an attempt to contain the violence.
The government has accused the protesters of “citizen-led disorders” and “acts of vandalism” as the demonstrations left Parisians angry and frustrated. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that 42 protesters were hurt in the scenes, while 61 police officers were injured by protesters.
The pension reform plan has been a major point of contention in French society in recent months, and many have warned that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. With Macron’s approval ratings already falling, and France now on the brink of an unprecedented crisis, it appears that the divisions in Paris remain unresolved and the future is uncertain.