In the midst of mass strikes and demonstrations, French President Emmanuel Macron has lost the government's chief pension officer. Jean-Paul Delevoye resigned Monday after disclosing numerous side jobs. The 72-year-old had not officially stated various paid and unpaid activities and mandates. Unions and the opposition have accused Delevoye of illegal job creation and a conflict of interest.

The resignation hits Macron and the middle government in a severe crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the country in the past week and a half against a planned pension reform. Public transport by train is interrupted or severely disrupted. Many metro lines do not run in Paris. Delevoye played a key role as High Commissioner for Pension Reform in the controversial project.

Delevoye, who is considered Macron's confidant, has been accused of conflicting interests. Right-wing populist Marine Le Pen said via Twitter that Delevoye's position was "untenable". There had also been requests for resignation from the left wing. As the AFP news agency reported, Delevoye changed a statement on secondary offices at the weekend and now gave 13 mandates - 11 of which are voluntary. This is considerably more part-time jobs than initially stated.

Culpable lightness errors

In a statement by Delevoye in mid-November for a public control authority, it was mentioned, among other things, that a position in a think tank paid around EUR 5,300 per month. Delevoye had agreed to repay the total amount of around 120,000 euros, it was said from his environment.

His mistake was "culpable lightness", the Delevoye, who comes from northern France, admitted in a statement. He is now paying for it. For more than two years he had been preparing the pension reform, which is the centerpiece of the reform policy of the social-liberal Macron. Delevoye, who originally came from the bourgeois right, complained of "violent attacks" and "lying blends" against him. "This project is important for France," he said with regard to the reform. If he stayed, he would weaken it.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had announced concessions in the conflict over the reform last week and called for an end to the mass strikes. The central government is sticking to the basic principles of the project, but is now planning long transition periods. But that is not enough for the unions. With the reform, Macron and the government want to end the fragmentation into 42 individual pension systems, some of which bring numerous special rights and privileges, and also make people work longer.

Nationwide protests planned for Tuesday

Tuesday could now be a crucial day: On the one hand, several unions have once again called for nationwide demonstrations. On the other hand, the state railways SNCF wants to announce the first timetables for the Christmas week. A major protest march was announced in Paris, starting from the Place de la République in the east of the city. Demonstrations were also expected in Lyon or Nantes. In addition to disabilities in local and long-distance public transport, failures in schools were again expected.

On the first day of the mass protests on December 5, government officials said over 800,000 people took to the streets across the country. The hardliner union CGT spoke of more than 1.5 million participants. According to the Interior Ministry, around 340,000 people took part in the demonstrations on Tuesday a week ago. Railway unionists had already threatened to continue the strike on Christmas Day.