750,000 French participating in 3rd protest over pension reform
About three-quarters of a million French people are protesting against their government's suggested reforms to the pension system.
More than 750,000 people participated in Tuesday's third statewide demonstration against the divisive pension change, French media reported, citing the nation's interior ministry.
Data provided by Paris showed that there were 757,000 protesters overall all over the country, 57,000 of whom were in the capital alone, the BFMTV broadcaster reported.
Demonstrators were carrying banners of leading French unions, chanting "Pension at 60," "Macron, take your hands off our pensions," "No reform without universal approval," and "Raise wages, not the retirement age," BFMTV said.
The 3rd wave of protests kicked off in #France, further disrupting several sectors in the country as the French people continue to voice their rejection of #Macron's pension reform. pic.twitter.com/T2MU5cyy5f— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) February 7, 2023
The demonstrations were accompanied by strikes that spanned various sectors, including transport, energy, and education.
French national unions previously announced that they would hold their next national demonstrations on February 11.
Earlier in the day, a Russian RIA Novosti news agency correspondent reported that black bloc radicals had joined the protest in Paris and started breaking the windows of cafes and ships, setting garbage cans on fire, and smashing billboards
The radicals were also throwing firecrackers and glass bottles at police officers. In response, the police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. According to French media, 17 people were detained in Paris on Tuesday.
In different cities of France, protesters clash with the police. Rallies against new pension reforms continue in the country. pic.twitter.com/eEJZNcF1Oe— Животный мир (@dragon_of_time_) February 7, 2023
Following the public outrage instigated by the pension reform plan introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron, especially raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, the legislative battle at the parliament began on Monday.
The French leader said last week that the reforms were "indispensable when we compare ourselves to the rest of Europe," in what was considered a sign that the President has no intentions of backing down on the reform plan.
Some 2.8 million people protested nationwide in France on Tuesday, January 31, during a day of rallies and strikes against pension reform backed by Macron, the leading CGT union said, while the first round of demonstrations was held on January 19.
On January 20, just one day after the one-million-person march against the government's pension reform, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a proposal to allocate a huge chunk of public expenditures to boost the military in 2024-2030.
As popular support for the French leader dwindles as dissent toward the reform grows among the public, Macron considers that the plan was part of his 2017 electoral campaign and thus it was valid for him to go through with the bill.
However, his leftist opponents claim that people voted for him in the last elections just to reject his far-right rival Marine Le Pen, and in reality, they [voters] do not agree or back all his plans.
Read more: 200+ strikes planned as French government insists on pension reform
In the parliamentary election last June, Macron’s centrist alliance lost control of the National Assembly despite gaining the most seats.
Since then, the opposition coalition introduced over 20,000 amendments, mostly by the left Nupes coalition.
The situation led the centrists to try to forge an alliance with The Republicans party over pension changes since the conservatives in recent years have pushed to raise the retirement age and appear inclined to vote in favor of the bill.
Weaker demand for French exports, higher inflation, and higher interest rates than previously anticipated mean the central bank expects growth to slow down to 0.3% in 2023, well below the 1% target set by the Finance Ministry. It stated that a recession cannot be ruled out, even if it would be brief and limited.
In addition to raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, the proposed pension system also slashes some benefits currently offered to workers in several sectors of the French economy.
The bill also includes a new condition, which is that individuals are entitled to full pension only if they worked for at least 43 years, while the minimum pension will be raised to 1,200 euros for a full career, in addition to allowing those who started working between the ages 16 and 19 to retire early.
The bill will be first sent to the National Assembly, which is expected to hold its first hearing on February 17, and then it will be sent to the Senate even if the assembly fails to vote on the plan.
If both institutions were unable to reach a vote within a deadline of 50 days [March], the government would be able to pass the reform through independent decrees.
Experts argue, however, that this approach to such a major national reform would be regarded as a misuse of power and a lack of democratic debate at the public institutions.