French protesters clash with police over pension policy

French protesters clash with police over pension policy

The protesters and police clashed for a second night in Paris as a new demonstration took place against the government's plans to raise the French state pension age.

The growing opposition to the policy, which has resulted in a wave of strikes since the beginning of the year, and rubbish piling up on the streets of the capital, has left President Emmanuel Macron with the gravest challenge to his authority since the gilets jaunes yellow vest protests of December 2018.

Reuters TV broadcast images of teargas being used by police to deal with crowd disorder as protesters gathered in Place de la Concorde near the National Assembly building.

Macron, resign! As they turned up to a line of riot police, some demonstrators chanted.

Friday night s troubles followed a similar disorder on Thursday after Macron forced through the contested pension overhaul without a parliamentary vote. The move raises France's state pension age by two years to 64, which is something the government says is essential to ensure the system does not go bust.

The Unions, and most voters, disagree. The French are deeply attached to keeping the official retirement age at 62, which is among the lowest in OECD countries.

More than eight out of 10 people are unhappy with the decision to bypass a parliamentary vote, and 65% want to continue the strikes and protests, according to a Toluna Harris Interactive poll for RTL radio.

A 52-year-old psychologist in Paris said that going ahead without a vote is a denial of democracy and a total denial of what has been happening in the streets for several weeks. It's unbearable. A broad alliance of France's main unions said they would continue their mobilisation to try to force a U-turn on the changes. There are protests planned for this weekend, with a day of nationwide industrial action scheduled for Thursday.

Teachers unions called for strikes next week, which could disrupt the emblematic baccalaureate secondary school exams.

While eight days of nationwide protests since January, and many more local strikes, the unrest on Thursday and Friday was reminiscent of the gilets jaunes protests in late 2018 over high fuel prices, which forced Macron to make a partial U-turn on a carbon tax.

On Friday afternoon, a leftist and centrist opposition lawmakers filed a motion of no confidence in parliament.

Even though Macron lost his absolute majority in the lower house of parliament last year, there was little chance that this would go through unless a surprise alliance of lawmakers from all sides is formed.

The leaders of the conservative Les R publicains party have ruled out such an alliance. None of them sponsored the first motion of no confidence filed on Friday. The far right was expected to file another file later in the day.

Individual LR lawmakers have said they could break ranks but the no-confidence bill would require the support of all the other opposition lawmakers and half of LR's 61 lawmakers to go through.

Holger Schmieding, the chief economist of Berenberg, said the French governments have usually won in such votes of no confidence. He said that he expected it to be the same again this time, even if Macron tried to bypass parliament. Votes in parliament were likely to take place over the weekend or on Monday.