The great beneficiary of the political and social crisis that France is experiencing after the approval by decree of the controversial pension reform is called Marine Le Pen. Her party is rising like foam in the polls, while the presidential party is sinking amid strong discontent and violence in the streets.
If legislative elections were held next Sunday, National Regroupment, Le Pen’s party, would obtain 26% of the votes, which represents an increase of almost seven points compared to the 19.2% it obtained in the legislative elections in June 2022, according to a survey by the Ifop/Fiducial institute published yesterday by ‘Le Journal du Dimanche’. The extreme right rises in voting intentions, despite having been quite discreet in the debates.
Le Pen is against retirement at 64 but, unlike on the left, his party has not participated in the massive anti-reform protests organized by the unions. National Regrouping would tie with the alliance of left-wing parties (Nupes), which would retain its current 26% support despite its strong mobilization against the star law of Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet. Divided in the presidential elections of April 2022, the left-wing parties – La France Insoumise (LFI), the Socialist Party (PS), the French Communist Party (PCF) and Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV) – ran together to the legislative ones of that same year under the name of Nupes.
The pension reform – which sets the minimum retirement age at 64 with 43 years of contributions to collect a full pension – has received great popular rejection. Two out of three French people are opposed to working two years more than now to collect the pension. This strong rejection is clearly reflected in the polls. Renaissance, Macron’s party, sinks in voting intention. It would obtain 22%, five points less than in the June 2022 elections, when it gained 26.9%.
Fréderic Dabi, general director of opinion at the Ifop institute, considers that if the president dissolves the National Assembly and calls legislative elections, his party runs “a very serious risk, not to say suicide.” Renaissance could suffer a strong setback at the polls and lose 50 seats.
Former socialist president François Hollande considers that Macron and his cabinet have multiplied the “mistakes” with their new law on retirements. According to him, they have presented it “at the worst moment, in a context of strong inflation, with greatly reduced purchasing power and concern because there is a war in Ukraine. And a second content error. When they propose a pension reform that asks for efforts from those who have worked hard and started early and nothing from those with high incomes, it constitutes a contradiction,” Hollande said in an interview with BFMTV.
A “method” error
The Executive has also made “an error of method”, according to the socialist. Macron sought an agreement with Los Republicanos (moderate right) instead of negotiating with the unions to dampen social discontent. And he finished off the chain of “errors” by approving the rule through the “decree.”
Hollande, who presided over France between 2012 and 2017 and had Macron as minister, has the impression that the social climate in France is currently marked “by a level of anger and resentment” that he has rarely seen and does not hesitate to blame his former cabinet mate of having “exacerbated tensions”.
The Government is preparing tomorrow for a new strike against the pension reform, the tenth called by the unions since the protests began on January 19. It remains to be seen if the violence of recent days will return to the streets. Riots caused by radical groups in Paris and other cities multiplied last week.
The tension could escalate after learning that a man injured on Saturday during a protest against the construction of a dam in central-western France is in danger of dying after a clash with security forces. The protest, which brought together thousands of people, led to a series of altercations with the security forces in which hundreds of people were injured. One of them is a 30-year-old young man, admitted to the hospital with head trauma and a “compromised vital prognosis”, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
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