Emmanuel Macron’s challenge to impose his reformist stamp on France

Massive demonstration in France in protest against the reforms to the pension system proposed by President Emmanuel Macron. The unions speak of 2 million people. (Lewis Jolly/)

The French government sees it as a “fair” and “balanced” reform, at least the values ​​that the government cast repeats to justify the initiative to modify the pension system. However, with the massive mobilization this Thursday throughout France, nobody knows if the proposal will advance or social pressure will manage to twist the thick lines of this project. Will it be another attempt or will the initiative of a government that wants to present itself as “transformer”.

The unions hope that what has been seen is “powerful” enough to push back the Executive, which provides in particular for the postponement of the legal retirement age to 64 years. The union leaders congratulate themselves on the “success” and promise that they will go to the end with all determination.

“More than 2 million people” demonstrated throughout the hexagon, said the secretary general of the CGT, Philippe Martinezwhile the number of Ministry of Interior it was not immediately available. At least 200 demonstrations took place across the country, mostly without riots. Only a few clashes, tensions or damage were reported in Paris, lyons Y Rennes. At the end of the day, official dispatches recognized 1.12 million protesters across the country. Some 80,000 people marched through the streets of Paris.

Numbers aside, one thing is certain: the persistence of the administration of Emmanuel Macron to support a change in pensions has made the reaction of the social movements homogeneous, unified after a rejection that they maintain, will last over time. Because, 8 organizations confederal they have become a block. A first show of force after the new attempt to give life to the campaign promise that Macron repeated before renewing in the Elysee Palace.

The head of state, who was traveling this Thursday to Barcelona for the signing of a historic agreement between France Y Spaindefended a retirement reform on the grounds that it was “fair and responsible”. The president also made it known that he expected the demonstrations to take place “without too many inconveniences” for the French and “obviously without excesses, violence or degradation.”

But will the mobilizations be for a few weeks or are they here to stay? Will the violence of the yellow vests return? The answers will mark not only the fate of the project but also a turning point for the second five-year term of a President who wants to seal his mark “reformist”. But also, if the union alliance will be circumstantial or may be projected at a time of social discontent in the face of inflation, a deteriorating purchasing power, a welfare state in crisis.

Only some clashes, tensions or damage were reported in Paris, Lyon and Rennes
Only some clashes, tensions or damage were reported in Paris, Lyon and Rennes (STRINGER /)

In the run-up to the strike, the government spokesman, Olivier Veran, He stopped minimizing the legitimacy of the demonstration, leaving the first position that it would not be “a massive mobilization.” After the last Council of Ministers, he went so far as to ensure that “we value the right to demonstrate”, before warning against the locks.

This is precisely what Emmanuel Macron had said when chairing that meeting. According to the participants, the president maintained: “We must distinguish between unions that call demonstrations in a traditional and republican framework and those that are in a deliberate process of blocking the country.”

Although the project advances, the fear is the blockade. The Executive knows that, if the conflict spreads, only at the beginning do people reject the consequences of a paralyzed country. If the situation lasts, Parisian officials confess, anger turns to the government for not preventing it. So, the blockade could mark the agenda until the end of Macron’s time, unless he gives up his “great reform”.

Meanwhile, with the momentum of the event, the eight main convening unions have agreed on a new mobilization date for the January 31. The union representatives know that this force has to be used to corner the Executive, which intends to take the project to Parliament next month.

The person responsible for carrying out the reform law is the prime minister Elizabeth Borne, who rehearsed a first response to the demonstrations: “I salute the commitment of the police, as well as the unions, which allowed the demonstrations to take place in good conditions,” the head of government tweeted. “Allowing opinions to be expressed is essential for democracy. Let’s keep debating and convincing.

But if approved it will not be the last battle. Although it is “sold” as the change to “preserve” the system by 2030, it would not be the last reform. The Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Mairehas privately acknowledged that there will be more changes, especially in the face of social scenarios with so many transformations and uncertainties.

protests in France

Meanwhile, “especially around the January 23, day of the presentation of the law to the Council of Ministers”, the unions “call for more actions and initiatives throughout the territory, in companies and services, in places of study, even by strike”. And of course to sign the petition launched on January 11, which had collected nearly 630,000 signatures this Thursday night, a document against government reform.

To all this, the participation indicators reached this Thursday are at the level of the strongest mobilizations of the last thirty years, say the unions. This is much more than at the beginning of the movement against the pension reform elaborated during the first five years and finally abandoned after the COVID pandemic. On December 5, 2019, the movement had gathered 806,000 people according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Finally, the opinion polls that are carried out at this time would confirm that, on the one hand, the French understand that the current system must be reformed. On the other, they do not want Emmanuel Macron’s project.

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Emmanuel Macron wants to bring the retirement age to 64 years and the unions called for massive mobilizations