Macron warned ‘worst’ days to come as he remains defiant over pensions3 min read
Emmanuel Macron removes his watch during interview
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French President Emmanuel Macron has been warned unrest in his country over his forced pension reform could “get worse” as he continues to fail to get unions on board. Fears that violence could mar the demonstrations prompted what Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin described as an unprecedented deployment of 13,000 officers, nearly half of them concentrated in the French capital.
The protests got underway peacefully on Tuesday morning across the country. In Paris, striking railway workers with burning flares and flags invaded and blocked train tracks serving one of the capital’s main stations, Gare de Lyon.
But police were braced for violence later in the day. The interior minister said more than 1,000 “radical” troublemakers, some from overseas, could latch on to marches planned in Paris and elsewhere.
Commenting on the crisis unfolding in France, Director of Eurointelligence, Wolfgang Munchau, asked: “So here we are, a necessary reform that all of a sudden has turned explosive, all reason and proportionality lost.
“How can the government, and France, move forward from here?”
He warned Macron has limited options to save his government from surviving new potential votes of no confidence.
He added: “Edouard Philippe warned that if the centre is not organising itself, the country will become ungovernable. The question goes way beyond the pension reform: with whom, how, over what and thanks to whom can the government build sufficient support to continue to govern? Who is able to create majorities? The idea of joining forces with Les Républicains is dead.
“Attracting single MPs from the left and the right in a variable geometry for individual texts, a tactic Elisabeth Borne is planning to apply, is not so easy if the whiff of dissolution of parliament is in the air and between the testing ambitions of some for the after-Macron era.
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“Borne wants to start with nuclear and renewable energy, inviting the opposition to join in collaborating on a text that could pass the assembly.
“There is no easy solution and the potential is there for it to get a lot worse.”
Condemning violent protesters, Darmanin said on Monday: “They come to destroy, to injure and to kill police officers and gendarmes. Their goals have nothing to do with the pension reform. Their goals are to destabilise our republican institutions and bring blood and fire down on France.”
Union leaders and political foes of Macron blame his government for protest violence that has flared in recent weeks, saying his pension reforms are sparking it.
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Critics also allege that police officers are using excessive force against protesters. A police oversight body is investigating multiple claims of wrongdoing by officers.
The new wave of strikes and protests was the tenth time since January that unions have called on workers to walk out and for demonstrators to flood the streets against Macron’s push to move back France’s legal retirement age from 62 to 64.
Unable to get a majority in parliament’s lower house for the unpopular reforms, Macron rammed them through using a special constitutional power, further inflaming protesters’ anger.
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