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‘Weakened’ Macron sticks with pension bill, eyes new reforms


PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron is looking to move on and work on new reforms in the coming weeks after his government barely survived a no-confidence motion on Monday over an unpopular pension reform, a source said.

Macron does not plan any reshuffle or snap elections and has ruled out withdrawing the pension law, which will raise the retirement age by two years to 64, the source who took part in meetings between Macron and key allies on Tuesday said. He will instead try and use a TV interview on Wednesday to “calm things down,” the source said.

With unions stepping up strikes and protests against the pension reform continuing across the country, Macron faces the most dangerous challenge to his authority since the “Yellow Vest” revolt four years ago.

Some in Macron’s own camp have warned him against continuing with business as usual.

“We are all weakened. The president, the government and the majority,” a senior MP in Macron’s camp, Gilles Le Gendre, told Liberation newspaper. “It’s not because the law was adopted that we can do business as usual.”

Another MP in Macron’s camp, Patrick Vignal, bluntly urged the president to suspend the pension reform bill in the face of the anger it has triggered, and its deep unpopularity.

Protesters played cat-and-mouse with police in cities across France for a fifth night on Monday, setting bins and barricades on fire. What may concern the executive is the large number of young people in the demonstrations.

Television images showed police firing tear gas and charging at protesters in several towns. Some special motor bike officers were seen striking out at protesters.

In another sign of growing anger, scuffles broke out on Tuesday next to at ExxonMobil’s Fos-sur-Mer oil refinery, as the government took steps to order striking workers back to work, footage from BFM TV showed.

The refinery site was enveloped in tear gas, while some demonstrators intermittently threw objects at police lines, BFM said. — Reuters

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