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France braces for weekend protests

France is bracing for a weekend of protests on Saturday against a pension reform that President Emmanuel Macron’s administration has pushed through by bypassing parliament.


France is bracing for a weekend of protests on Saturday against a pension reform that President Emmanuel Macron’s administration has pushed through by bypassing parliament.

As reported, the government, using the controversial Article 49, Part 3 of the Constitution, decided on Thursday to approve the pension system reform bill with a decree, refusing to vote in the National Assembly.

This has caused indignation both among members of parliament and in society.

The opposition MPs have already submitted two applications for votes of confidence, the debate on which is expected in the National Assembly already on Monday afternoon, according to sources.

The opposition hopes to be able to gather enough votes to topple the government and thereby repeal the law, which provides for raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

However, experts believe that this is quite unlikely, as the vote of no confidence requires the support of at least half of the deputies of the conservative Republican Party, who have so far shown tactical support for the government.

Meanwhile, the unions have called for relatively small protests over the weekend, while nationwide strikes and demonstrations are planned for Thursday next week.

However, already on Friday evening, thousands of people protested outside the parliament for the second day in a row.

After a bonfire was lit in Concordia Square after dark, the police intervened and began to disperse the crowd.

The protesters, on the other hand, started throwing bottles and firecrackers at the security guards, forcing the police to resort to tear gas.

The police report that 61 people have been detained.

Similar events have also been reported from other French cities.

In Lyon, in the east of the country, demonstrators tried to break into the city hall and set fire to the building. Police report 36 detainees.

Polls show that two-thirds of the French are opposed to the reform, which, among other things, also includes extending the period of mandatory social security contributions to receive a full pension.

In the meantime, the government states that reform is necessary because the current pension system is not sustainable and is threatened with a deficit in the near future, and also reminds that the retirement age in most European countries has long been higher than in France.

At the same time, the opponents of the reform claim that it is unfair to those who started working physically hard at a young age, and to women who stopped their working careers to raise children.

Although the strikes and demonstrations, which have been ongoing since mid-January, initially drew the largest number of participants seen in decades, the number of protesters appeared to have dwindled in the run-up to the government’s dramatic decision.

However, Paris’ municipal garbage collectors did not stop their strike, and an estimated 10,000 tons of trash are currently littering the streets of the capital, scaring off tourists and causing alarm among restaurant owners.

On Friday, the trade unions of the national railway operator SNCF issued a call to maintain the strike, which has caused serious traffic disruptions.

On the other hand, the CGT trade union has announced that the strikers will stop production at two oil refineries over the weekend or on Monday at the latest.

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