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Friday, April 19, 2024

Macron faces third night of riots over pension reform

French President Emmanuel Macron is holding a new crisis meeting with his cabinet on Thursday after a third night of violent protests against his controversial pension reform plan.

The reform, which aims to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and unify 42 different pension schemes, has sparked widespread opposition from trade unions, opposition parties and the public.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across France since December, disrupting transport, schools, refineries and public services.

On Wednesday night, rioters clashed with police in Paris and other cities, setting fire to cars, barricades and shops. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

The government says the reform is necessary to ensure the financial sustainability of the pension system, which is one of the most generous in the world. It also says it will make the system fairer and simpler.

But critics say the reform will force people to work longer for lower pensions, and will erode social rights and solidarity. They also accuse Macron of ignoring the social discontent and imposing his agenda without dialogue.

Macron has instructed Prime Minister Jean Castex to meet with representatives of legitimate protest groups and opposition politicians this week in an attempt to defuse the crisis.

But some union leaders have vowed to continue their protest until the reform is withdrawn. They have called for another day of nationwide strikes and demonstrations on Saturday.

The pension reform is seen as a key test of Macron’s ability to enact change in his second term, which has been marred by social unrest, economic slowdown and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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