Imagery courtesy of The New York Times
By Madeline Bartol
Paris, the famous city of love has become the city of violence in the past week as mass protests broke out over the passage of a law which raises the minimum retirement age in France from 62 to 64 years old.
The law was forced through the National Assembly by President Emmanuel Macron, who has been wanting to raise the minimum retirement age since he was reelected in 2022. He invoked article 49.3 of the French constitution, giving the government the power to forcibly pass the law and bypass Parliament. This measure has been repeatedly pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other variables. Protests have broken out nationwide, with over one million protesters taking to the street to voice their grievances with the new change and the current government.
The regime of Macron defends this forced passage, citing necessity. The French government has been running a pension deficit for a considerable amount of time. According to the government, if the system remained, it would have crumbled. This change attempts to alleviate the deficit by 2030. Rising life expectancies are also cited for the law’s necessity.
Due to the recent protests, invoking article 49.3, and public disapproval of the French government, two votes of no confidence took place in Parliament. Neither vote passed, but many are calling for both the President and the Prime Minister to resign based on the policy and article invocation. The choice to push the bill through has also led to a divide in the Assembly, with many members angry over the push through of the law.
French citizens originally took to the streets over this retirement law;however the protests have begun to transition into a public display of dissatisfaction with the current government. Many protesters are unhappy with the bypassing of Parliament, being called by many a tear in “France’s social contract.” Over one million protestors have swarmed cities in France, many of which are becoming violent. Tourists have noted trashed streets, with some protesters lighting trash on fire in the middle of the street. Police have been trying to subdue the violence, with many people being arrested.
Along with the protests, France is suffering a Public Relations nightmare, with many in the political community calling France’s current state an embarrassment. The global community has had much to say after France canceled the visit of King Charles I, the first foreign tour the King would have taken internationally. Many dignitaries view this as a national embarrassment for France, having to decline a sovereign visit due to the protests.
One ambassador said, “It’s a very prestigious thing to host the first visit abroad of the King of England, it doesn’t happen every day. If you can’t pull it off, it’s a problem.”
Many question Macaron’s decision not to cancel his upcoming trip to Beijing. Coming right after the meeting of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, many within the political community believe Macron will call on China to urge Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine. French citizens are questioning whether this trip is necessary. Many find it unwise for the President to leave his country in turmoil and a split government.
When asked about the trip, one government official stated, “The Chinese will play a fine balancing act. They need a good relationship with Europe so will not want to play on Macron’s internal problems.”