The World Today for April 05, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

The Revolution Playbook

FRANCE

French authorities last week closed the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and other popular tourist sites as more than 740,000 workers staged strikes and demonstrations over President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the legal retirement age by two years to 64 and require higher payments into pensions.

As garbage piled high on the streets of Paris – with some calling the waste heaps a symbol of the protests – France’s European neighbors looked on in bafflement and alarm at the careening situation next door. King Charles III of the United Kingdom, meanwhile, canceled his trip to France, in what would have been his first official visit as head of state, Le Monde wrote.

Meanwhile, as Macron absorbed the diplomatic and political fallout of his plan, he also deployed more than 13,000 security officers to control or quell the demonstrations.

“They come to destroy, to injure and to kill police officers and gendarmes,” said Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, according to National Public Radio, referring to the demonstrators. “Their goals have nothing to do with the pension reform. Their goals are to destabilize our republican institutions and bring blood and fire down on France.”

Macron’s tactic of using a “special constitutional power” to enact the age change without a vote in parliament has helped galvanize the violent reaction to the plan, which the president says will help the French government balance its books and keep the country’s economy competitive as its population ages, the Associated Press reported.

France now spends almost 14 percent of its gross domestic product on retirement pensions, more than Spain and Germany, comparable countries that devote 11 and 10 percent to retirees, respectively, wrote the Washington Post. If France keeps its retirement age at 62, only 1.2 taxpayers will be working for every retiree in the country by 2070 – an unsustainable situation.

Macron, 45, won two terms in office on pro-business promises to boost the French economy and create new jobs, Bloomberg noted. But he’s moving forward with painful pension reforms amid post-pandemic, and Russia-Ukraine war induced economic conditions that include high energy and food prices. Many of his constituents think he’s placing undue burdens on them during tough times in order to help wealthy French plutocrats.

“Macron doesn’t listen to us, we are fed up with it,” a protester in Paris told Euronews. “He is not alone, and he is not the king. France no longer has kings.”

Bypassing parliament also demonstrates how weak and isolated Macron currently is in French politics, argued New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. Macron’s political party, Renaissance, doesn’t have sufficient votes in parliament to pass the reform bill, and party leaders couldn’t convince pro-free market conservative parties to line up with the beleaguered president.

Macron might believe he needs to sacrifice his legacy in order to preserve France’s future.

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