French President Emmanuel Macron is “sitting on a volcano” over his much-criticised pension reform, turned into French law on Saturday. A day earlier, the Constitutional Council rejected some parts of the government’s pension legislation but approved the higher minimum retirement age, which was central to Macron’s plan and the focus of opponent protests.
Now, the French leader is being warned the battle against his policies and government is not over as protesters refuse to budge.
Jacline Mouraud, one of the founders of the Yellow Vest movement, fears “that the situation will escalate”.
She told Adnkronos: “We are walking on hot coals because of the stubbornness of the president and his government.
“I don’t see any signs coming from the president or his government that suggest peace. And Macron doesn’t realise he’s sitting on a volcano.”
She continued: “Everyone expected a validation of the reform because in any case, all those who sit on the Council, those ‘wise men’ will not bite the hand that feeds them.”
She warned “things risk ending badly, because the spontaneous demonstrations that took place yesterday are greatly repressed by the orders received by the police, but something serious could happen someday”.
For Mouraud, the French leader “is not aware of the crisis we are going through”.
But “if one day he were to recover his sight, he would have to say: ‘I’m dissolving the Assembly, let’s go back to voting – meanwhile even of the National Assembly alone – and while we wait, let’s create a government of cohabitation, because I don’t believe for a moment that the French will resist four years at this rate, it’s not possible.”
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She also warned: “We are walking on hot coals because of the stubbornness of the president and his government and everything that happens in the streets goes beyond the pension reform: they are anti-Macron demonstrations. And he blow on the fire.”
France’s main labor unions, which organised 12 nationwide protests since January in hopes of defeating the plan, have vowed to continue fighting until it is withdrawn. They called for another mass protest on May 1, which is International Workers’ Day.
The government argued that requiring people to work two years more before qualifying for a pension was needed to keep the pension system afloat as the population ages; opponents proposed raising taxes on the wealthy or employers instead, and said the change threatened a hard-won social safety net.
Opinion polls show Macron’s popularity has plunged to its lowest level in four years. The centrist president, who made raising the retirement age a priority of his second term, plans to make a televised national address on Monday evening, Macron’s office said.
“The president’s remarks are very much awaited” and will both seek to appease tensions in the country and explain decisions that have been made in the past months regarding the pension reform, government spokesperson Veran said.
Macron was first elected in 2017 on a promise to make France’s economy more competitive, including by making people work longer.
Since then, his government has made it easier to hire and fire workers, cut business taxes and made it more difficult for the unemployed to claim benefits.