Recently France has been rocked by nationwide large-scale protests against the proposal by President Emmanuel Macron to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 without approval from parliament. The French, never being shy to protest, took to the streets in their masses to show their opposition to this decision and Macron’s tenure more broadly.
The worries around the plan to increase the retirement age are that it sets a precedent that this is acceptable, and that the retirement age can be further increased in the future. Additionally, and perhaps even more incendiary, questions have been raised by the fact that Macron and his government forced the bill through parliament without a vote. This disregard for democracy and authoritarian-esque behaviour has taken an already unpopular political decision and elevated it to a national disgrace and further turned the French public against Emmanuel Macron.
Socialist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon said Macron has gone “over the heads of the people” and that he has “no legitimacy – neither in parliament, nor in the streets”. For Mélenchon and the rest of the French left the response to this decision was obvious, protests and strikes; which had been relatively calm until the bill was forced through parliament.
It was Macron’s side-stepping of democracy that radicalised the ongoing protests and turned them violent. There have been widespread strikes and street protests throughout France, bringing the nation to a standstill in recent days. While many, especially here in Ireland where this level of protest is alien, would look at some of the scenes coming out of France, the flames and violence, with horror it cannot be argued that the motivations and outrage of the protestors are not valid.
Emmanuel Macron’s actions regarding the increased pension age, an already widely unpopular proposal, are disgraceful, anti-democratic, and deserving of protest. Regardless if one feels that the protestors have gone too far and that the violence is unjustified, what is justified is the outrage and opposition to Macron’s blatant disregard for the will of the public and something needed to be done to show the French government this.
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