after extinguishing a fire of rubbish
during a demonstration.
Kurth/AFP via Getty Images
or a Yellow Jackets style crisis...?
France is protesting against Emmanuel Macron's plans to raise the retirement age.
After months of strikes
and protests, tension reached its peak on Thursday, with some
violent outbursts in Paris that brought back memories from the
Yellow Jacket movement.
Trade unions have called for another big day of strikes next Tuesday, the 10th since the beginning of demonstrations, but other smaller, spontaneous protests are erupting in parallel, another reminder of the Yellow Jacket marches.
How did we get there?
Strikes and protests against the pensions overhaul started at the beginning of the year and escalated this week, after the government forced the text through parliament amid fears that it would not have enough votes.
Protesters POLITICO spoke with are furious with Macron for the reform - which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, and extend contributions to get a full pension - but also for bypassing a parliamentary vote.
Are the Yellow Jackets making a comeback?
There are several differences between ongoing protests and the spontaneous movement that blocked the whole country during Macron's first mandate.
Before turning into a massive anti-Macron movement, the Yellow Jackets started as a protest against a fuel tax mostly led by lower-middle class people from rural areas who use their cars to go to work.
Violent actions and vandalism have been a key feature of Yellow Jacket protests everywhere in France.
from the current demonstrations, where violence mostly erupted in
the aftermath of union-led, traditional protests or in follow-up,
More than 60 percent of the French are in favor of stronger protests to make the government step back, according to a Ifop poll published Thursday.
Is it a question of when, not if?
However, there are increasing signs that French authorities are bracing for the worst and that the specter of the Yellow Jackets is looming over France.
Police agents on the ground have warned the government that they are experiencing the same violence they had to face during the Yellow Jacket movement.
They are also
allegations of police brutality, something that has fueled the
fire of demonstrations in recent years, including during the Yellow
Trade unions that organized strikes also look increasingly aware that things could get out of control.
On Friday, the head of trade union CFDT offered an olive branch to Macron as he proposed a pause on the reform for six months and a meeting with the unions again, even with the help of a mediator.
Is Macron going to cave?
The French president so far has given no signs that he could change his mind.
In his Wednesday TV interview, he defended the reform and argued
that unions didn't come up with alternative proposals to reform the
pensions system - something they immediately
Does the opposition have leverage?
In theory, the reform is done...
After bypassing the parliamentary vote on the text, the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne survived a no-confidence vote with only a nine-vote margin last Monday.
There is however one last political hurdle for Macron to overcome at France's Constitutional Council, where constitutional judges will have to decide whether the text is in line with the constitution, especially when it comes to the adoption procedure.
In parallel, the
Constitutional Council is
assessing a request by opposition lawmakers to hold a referendum
on the text.
But really... How spoiled are the French?
Macron was quick to point out that the retirement age in France is among the lowest in Europe - a comparison that could make international observers wonder why the French are so reluctant to adapt their pension system to rising life expectancy.
Opponents have argued there are many ways to reform the system and make it financially balanced, and that raising the retirement age is particularly unfair to the poor and people who have started work early, mostly in blue-collar, physically demanding jobs.
Pension systems are hard to compare and France is closer to its neighbors when comparing the effective retirement age.
Most importantly, French discontent goes widely beyond the merits of the reform.
At last year's parliamentary election, Macron lost an outright majority in the French National Assembly and the decision to skip a parliamentary vote on the reform further exposed the president's weakness.
That constitutional maneuver added a new layer to existing angriness, protesters say...