Four years after the yellow vests, popular hatred of Macron has flared up in France for the pension reform

A protester holds a cutout representing French President Emmanuel Macron (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes) (GONZALO FUENTES/)

The same images resurface: Protesters burning portraits of Emmanuel Macron. The French president once again crystallized popular hatred with his adoption by decree of the pension reform, four years after the social protest of the yellow vests.

A The increase in the fuel tax caused the outbreak of this protest movement at the end of 2018, characterized by the blockade of roads and roundabouts, and by massive demonstrations on Saturdays, marked by violence.

And his specter returns to plan, after Macron imposed on Thursday the delaying the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 and the advancement to 2027 of the requirement to contribute 43 years (and not 42, as now) to collect a full pension, without the vote of Parliament.

The French government survived two motions of no confidence on Monday in the lower house. With the failure of the motions of censure, the pension bill is approved.

“Macron we can start again! We beheaded Louis XVI, Louis XVI!”shouts a group of young people in a metro station when they go to demonstrate in Paris, according to a video posted on social networks.

In the same place where this king was guillotined in 1793, the police had to disperse thousands of people protesting against the reform in a spontaneous concentration on Thursday and Friday with water cannons, tear gas and charges.

A puppet representing French President Emmanuel Macron (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
A puppet representing French President Emmanuel Macron (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard) (ERIC GAILLARD/)

“From the ‘yellow vests’, the president crystallizes enormously the rancor and hatred around his person,” explains Anne Muxel, research director at Sciences Po University.

This young president -currently 45 years old-, trained at the elitist National School of Administration (ENA) and a former business banker, quickly embodied arrogance and a authoritarian image in the eyes of his detractors.

“It is inherent to his person. He is a president who divides: loved or hated. If not, he would not have been president ”, he recognizes a figure of the ruling party.

With the pandemic in 2020, “anger receded into the background, but distrust did not. The French once again have the feeling that they are not being listened to”, adds Muxel, for whom, regardless of the crisis, Macron “never manages to get his messages across”.

“Isolated Power”

The current social conflict “is based on the same mistrust, very deep, against political institutions, even local ones,” says Luc Rouban, from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Although Macron and his prime minister, Elisabeth Borneare the main targets of anger, this also extends to the deputies who said they were in favor of his pension reform.

A protester holds an image representing French President Emmanuel Macron on a stick (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo)
A protester holds an image representing French President Emmanuel Macron on a stick (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo) (BENOIT TESSIER/)

Some saw their offices in their respective constituencies stoned or painted. The head of the ranks of the ruling Renacimiento party, Aurore Bergé, asked for greater police protection for her deputies.

By using article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the adoption of a law without a vote in Parliament, the government “appeared as an isolated, minority power” that pushes policies far “from the reality of French life,” according to Rouban.

As with the yellow vests, fears about purchasing power, in a context of war in Ukraine, also fuel these outbursts.

The question is whether it will last now that the reform has been definitively adopted after failing two motions of censure against the government.

A union official predicts that large demonstrations called by the unions will “reduce” and become less frequent, and that there will be “several months” of tougher protests on Saturdays, such as during the yellow vests, until the summer.

The government hopes that the response will deflate. “People are aware that we are in a inflationary, economic, perhaps financial crisis, and that when the time comes, you have to be responsible ”, according to an Executive adviser.

(With information from AFP)

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