The head of state was speaking to the parliamentarians of the presidential camp invited to the Elysee, after the adoption by Parliament of its text via article 49.3 of the Constitution and at the end of a day punctuated by consultation meetings.

Very silent since the beginning of the crisis on the pension reform, the French head of state must speak at midday (an unusual time) in a live interview on two television channels, does not plan to dissolve Parliament, reshuffle the government, or call a referendum on pensions, said his troops.

The president will speak to the French to "appease", "well aware of the troubled moment", but without "rushing", summarized a participant in a meeting of the presidential camp Tuesday at the Elysee.

Protesters protect themselves with an umbrella during a demonstration in Nantes (France) on March 21, 2023 © LOIC VENANCE / AFP

However, his strategy to bounce back promises to be difficult, anger remains very strong in the country, and the government of Elisabeth Borne, which narrowly escaped a motion of censure on Monday, appears very weakened.

Anger and violence

Emmanuel Macron "set fire and closed all exits," denounced Tuesday the leader of La France Insoumise (LFI, radical left) Jean-Luc Mélenchon at a meeting in the Ariège (southwest).

"I will not participate in extinguishing the fire" of the protest against the pension reform in France, warned for her part the leader of the far right Marine Le Pen.

While the social protest, supervised by the unions for two months, has remained peaceful, signs of radicalization have been multiplying for several days.

Mobile riot gendarmes face protesters on the Place de la République in Paris on March 21, 2023 © Ludovic MARIN / AFP

On Tuesday evening, clashes broke out between young demonstrators and police, especially in Paris where 46 people were arrested.

According to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, "more than 1,200" "sometimes violent" demonstrations have taken place in France since Thursday, the date of the use of 49.3 to adopt the disputed pension reform and its most criticized measure, the postponement of the retirement age from 62 to 64 years.

"Using the Constitution to pass a reform is always a good thing," said the president to justify the use of this constitutional weapon decried by opponents of his text, ensuring that there was "no alternative majority".

Oil workers gather outside a refinery in Fos-sur-Mer near Marseillen on March 21, 2023 © CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP

He promised to "move forward" from now on "health, school and ecology", while organising "the society of full employment".

While lawyers' unions, magistrates and left-wing politicians denounce police violence, the Prime Minister reminded the Assembly on Tuesday of "the duty to set an example" of the police.

Strikes and requisitions

In addition to the renewable strike of garbage collectors in several cities, including Paris where 9,300 tons of garbage stink some neighborhoods, road traffic was disrupted Tuesday in Brittany (west) by blockades.

On the refinery side, several sites remain blocked. But the government evacuated the oil terminal of Donges (west) and announced the first requisitions of oil personnel in Fos-sur-Mer (south). About 12% of gas stations run out of fuel in France.

"Nothing undermines the determination of the workers," warned the CGT, before a new day of action at the call of all the unions scheduled for Thursday. Between 600,000 and 800,000 demonstrators, including 40,000 to 70,000 in Paris are expected by the authorities.

Police officers stand next to the burning tram rails on March 21, 2023 in Nantes (France) © LOIC VENANCE / AFP

The general secretary of the reformist union CFDT Laurent Berger said he was worried about the "violence" that could be expressed because of the adoption of a law that had "no majority".

Politically, too, the pressure on the executive has not abated, and the rejection of a motion of censure by only nine votes has given energy to the oppositions, left, right and far right.

The deputy of the radical left Alexis Corbière called on President Macron not to "remake a kind of verbal 49.3" during his television interview. If "he comes back on TV to say the same thing, +I don't care about your opinion, I impose+, Thursday's demo will be even stronger," he predicted.

With his allies, he relies in particular on appeals to the Constitutional Council. The left is also calling for a referendum.

The National Rally (far right) also filed Tuesday its appeal to the Constitutional Council for "this text to fall into the oblivion of history and be put in the trash".

© 2023 AFP