For the eighth time since January 2023, opponents of the amendment to the pension system proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron are demonstrating, Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in France, while parliamentarians are trying to find a settlement on this controversial text and the government seems determined to pass it with or without a vote.
Seven deputies and seven senators have been holding a closed meeting since 9:00 (08:00 GMT) in an attempt to reach agreement on the draft amendment, which is inevitable before a final vote expected in the National Assembly on Thursday.
After demonstrations with record participation on the seventh of March and a day of mobilization that saw fewer numbers last Saturday, the Trade Union Front wants, with this new day of action, to have this effect once again on the vote of representatives, while the government does not have the required majority and therefore needs the support of the right.
And it is expected that 650 to 850 thousand demonstrators will participate in the streets, according to a police source, declining from their number on the seventh of March, which was the peak of the mobilization with 1.28 million people. The march of protesters in Paris begins at two in the afternoon (13:00 GMT).
This uncertainty may prompt the government to resort to a constitutional weapon known as Article 49.3, which allows the bill to be approved without a vote in Parliament. But she hopes that she will not be forced to use this measure, which may exacerbate the rejection of this reform, which is opposed by the majority of the French.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Born told right-wing deputies that support for the text during the vote does not mean support for the government. And she stressed, “You will be asked … to vote on reforming the pension system. You are not asked to vote on government support, but only on this project and this project.”
In parallel, extendable strikes continue in several major sectors, from transport to energy to waste removal, with varying success, according to a union official. “The situation is complicated in terms of strikes… Participation in general assemblies is not great,” said this source, who requested anonymity.
‘A dangerous democracy problem’
Since January 19, millions of French people have demonstrated seven times to express their rejection of this reform, the main clause of which is to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years. This item is causing the most anger.
However, the government’s position did not budge and it pursued a strategy to achieve approval of the bill at a rapid pace, using measures contained in the constitution to expedite parliamentary debate.
Last week, the Trade Union Front moved the discussion to the constitutional legality of what is happening, considering that the absence of any response from the executive authority to the ongoing protest movement is a “dangerous democratic problem” that could lead to an “explosive” situation.
She requested that French President Emmanuel Macron receive her. Faced with his refusal, she called on him to organize a “citizen’s opinion poll.”
“They are trying to take advantage of anything,” political expert Dominique Andolfato told AFP, considering that the idea of the popular poll perhaps reflects “skepticism about the strategy adopted (in protest) and the feeling that the demonstrations, in the end, do not influence enough.”
The trade union front closely monitors the mobilization on Wednesday and the course of voting on Thursday, but it also began studying its move to the next stage, with the fear that the adoption of the law would lead to the fragmentation of the trade union unit by pushing the reformists to withdraw from the protests.
In response to a question by the “BFMTV” television station on Monday evening, the Secretary-General of the reformist Unsa union, Laurent Loscor, said that the protests will continue even after Thursday, indicating that the Constitutional Council in charge of examining the constitutionality of laws will likely have its say.
On Wednesday, Laurent Berger, Secretary General of the CFDT union, called on parliamentarians to “arbitrate conscience during the voting process”, denouncing the “unjust reform” project.
In terms of strikes, four gas distribution centers voted in favor of extending the strike until the beginning of next week.
About seven thousand tons of waste accumulate in the streets of Paris, while waste is also accumulated in several cities in the west of the country, such as Rennes and Nantes.
The movement of trains of the National Railway Company (SNCF) is still affected by the protests, and traffic remains disrupted on some roads in the north of the country.