Protests rock France after Macron rams through pension reform
PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron’s government on Thursday (Mar 16) rammed a controversial pension reform through parliament without a vote, sparking angry protests in Paris and other cities as well as tumult in the legislature.
The move to use a special constitutional power enabling the government to pass legislation without a vote amounted to an admission that the government lacked a majority to hike the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The Senate had adopted the bill earlier Thursday, but reluctance by right-wing opposition MPs in the National Assembly to side with Macron meant the government faced defeat in the lower house.
“We can’t take the risk of seeing 175 hours of parliamentary debate come to nothing,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told MPs as she announced the move amid jeers and boos from opposition MPs who also sang the national anthem.
A crowd of thousands gathered in front of the parliament in the historic Place de la Concorde in central Paris, watched over by riot police.
“I’m outraged by what’s happening. I feel like I’m being cheated as a citizen,” said Laure Cartelier, a 55-year-old schoolteacher who had come to express her outrage. “In a democracy, it should have happened through a vote”.
At around 8pm, police used tear gas and water cannon to clear protesters away after a fire was lit in the centre of the square, close to an Egyptian obelisk that has stood there for close to 200 years.
Some 120 people were arrested on suspicion of seeking to cause damage, Paris police said.
Even after the rally was dispersed, some protesters created fires and caused damage to shop fronts in side streets, AFP reporters said.
Several stores were looted during protests in the southern city of Marseille while clashes between protesters and security forces also erupted in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes as well as Lyon in the southeast, AFP correspondents said.