“It’s the last straw,” exclaims Corentin, a 28-year-old history and geography teacher who prefers not to give his last name. After learning that French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform was going to be imposed by decree, he went to demonstrate at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. A few meters from the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, hundreds of people have gathered after the Government announced the application of article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the adoption of a law without going through the vote of the deputies.
“If they used 49.3, it means that not even the deputies of the Assembly wanted it,” adds Corentin, referring to the unpopular pension reform, which will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years. “It is an undemocratic instrument,” she insists. Next to her, Charlotte Roussel, a 24-year-old student, agrees. Both have been demonstrating for weeks against the Executive’s project. “We hope that now, people will stand up even more,” she declares.
The controversial use of the decree has been on everyone’s lips during the protest, which has been attended by many young people and students. In front of an important police cordon that prevented crossing the bridge to approach the Assembly, a group chanted: “And whose Assembly is it? It’s ours!”. At the subway exit, some security agents checked the backpacks of the people who were arriving one by one.
Among the protesters was also Alexandra Levard, a 26-year-old architecture student. “They pass laws against the majority of citizens. They do not listen to us, despite the large demonstrations that have taken place ”, she lamented. Behind her, an SUD union van was announcing over loudspeakers that the next demonstration would take place on March 25. “Macron was chosen as a barrier against the extreme right. He should be more humble ”, added the university student.
The centrist leader defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of the last presidential election, held in April. But two months later, she lost the absolute majority that she had during her first term, although his deputies form the largest bloc in the chamber. Since then, he has been forced to negotiate text by text every law he wants to pass.
The pension reform, its flagship project, has not managed to gather enough support this Thursday, so it has decided to opt for the express route to approve it. A risky decision, which threatens to give new impetus to the massive demonstrations and strikes that have shaken the country for more than two months. According to polls, two out of three French people oppose the project, which also accelerates the requirement to contribute for 43 years to collect a full pension.
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Christine Robieux, 45, referred to these figures. On her poster, you could read the data that 68% of the French oppose the Executive’s plan. “They don’t take our opinion into account. The Government ignores the opinion of the deputies and the population, ”she criticized. “We want a society that is not only driven by financial interests, but by the well-being of the people, and that comes from having more free time,” she opined.
A small group stood out from the crowd, dressed in yellow vests covered with dates written in black. “These are the dates of all the demonstrations that we have attended since 2018,” explains Jean-Claude Gosset, a 63-year-old retiree. He is part of the yellow vestsa movement that shook French politics during the first five years of Macron and that was born after the Executive announced a rise in fuel prices.
“The pension reform is the common denominator of all the problems,” he says. As an example, he cites the current inflation, but also the “system”, which needs to change so that people “be more listened to”. In the first round of the elections, he voted for the leftist candidate of La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. But in the second, he points out, he did not vote for anyone. He did not feel represented. He did not want to choose between Macron and Le Pen.
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