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France beset by more protests over pension cuts

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the latest day of protests and strikes against French President Emmanuel Macron's decision to force workers to stay on the job two extra years before retirement. But the protest movement may be weakening.

(CN) — France saw another day of mass demonstrations, nationwide strikes and clashes between police and protesters on Tuesday as anger remains high over French President Emmanuel Macron's gamble to forcefully raise the age of retirement by two years.

Tuesday's demonstrations were smaller than last week's protests, a sign that perhaps the mass movement against the pension cuts may be weakening. The Interior Ministry said 740,000 people took part in the demonstrations, down from more than 1 million in previous weeks.

Still, the protests were massive and took place across France as hundreds of thousands of French seem prepared to continue their street protests to vent their anger at Macron's government. Trade unions announced a new day of nationwide strikes for April 6.

Tuesday saw more disruptions for travelers and schools across France. There were also fuel shortages in parts of the country, including in the Paris region. A strike by trash collectors in Paris has left rubbish pile up in the capital, but relief was on the way because trash collectors said they would get back to work on Wednesday.

There were also reports of clashes between police and protesters and acts of violence in Lyon, Nantes, Rennes, Bordeaux and Paris. Protesters and police continued to clash as darkness fell Tuesday in Paris and other cities.

Police are facing accusations of using excessive force against protesters last Thursday and Friday. Videos showed police firing tear gas directly at protesters and striking people with shields and batons. Protesters have injured scores of police, lit fires and attacked public buildings.

Macron stoked public outrage by ramming through his pension reforms without a vote in parliament. He argues that France's financial stability rests on raising the age of retirement from 62 to 64, though many economists disagree with that assessment.

Polls show that up to 80% of French are opposed to the pension cuts and Macron's popularity is extremely low. Without a majority in parliament, Macron is struggling to govern.

Trade unions are demanding the government reopen talks over the pension law, but so far the Elysee has refused to budge on the core aspects of the new pension law.

France's constitutional court, the Constitutional Council, is examining the legality of enacting the pension law without a parliamentary vote. The court is expected to issue a decision before April 21.

Macron triggered article 49.3 of the constitution to bypass a vote in the National Assembly because he feared his pension reforms would be defeated.

The constitutional court will determine whether this article could be used to pass a law dealing with pensions. The device is designed to give the executive branch the power to sidestep parliament on budgetary issues but not necessarily to raise the retirement age.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Categories: Civil Rights Employment Government International Politics

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