Anti-Macron protesters smash office windows as they target French conservatives
Anti-Macron protesters smashed the offices of the leader of France’s conservatives to intimidate his party into blocking controversial pension reforms and possibly bring down the government in a crunch vote on Monday.
Demonstrators targeted Éric Ciotti, head of the Republican party, in a threat designed to force him to join other opposition groups in voting to oust Emmanuel Macron’s government in a no-confidence vote.
“The thugs who did this want to violently pressure my vote on Monday. I will never yield to the new disciples of terror,” said a defiant Mr Ciotti, who has indicated he will not support the vote.
Mr Ciotti is one of several MPs who have become the new targets of angry protestors following Mr Macron’s decision to push through his deeply unpopular pension reforms using an effective constitutional veto to bypass a parliamentary vote.
The move triggered angry street protests across the weekend and two motions of no-confidence in parliament that will be put to a vote Monday. If passed, the vote will bring down both the government and the bill. Mr Macron will survive as president, either way.
Mr Ciotti has said that he will not support the no-confidence vote, and “add chaos to chaos”. Without his mainstream Right-wing party’s support, there would not be enough votes to stop the law.
“There will be no majority to bring the government down, but it will be a moment of truth,” Bruno Le Maire, finance minister, said of the two efforts to unseat the cabinet planned for Monday afternoon.
Mr Ciotti is the latest politician who supports the pension reforms to face threats and intimidation from increasingly angry and hardened protesters. The pension reform bill would raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64, and require citizens to have acquired 43 years of work in order to access a full state pension.
On Thursday, an MP from Mr Macron’s Renaissance party made a formal request with the Ministry of Interior for police protection for deputies under threat.
Republican party vice-president Agnes Evren also shared a screen grab of threats that evoked the guillotine for both her and Mr Ciotti at Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were guillotined.
“I am now receiving death threats. These extremists refuse debate, have no respect for their political adversaries,” she tweeted. “Do not underestimate the danger any longer. Every threat of this type will now be the subject of a complaint.”
As Mr Ciotti woke up to news of broken windows, a Renaissance MP also woke up to find a spray-painted picture of a hanged man and the words “Denial of democracy” tagged at his office in Vincennes, a suburb east of Paris.
Police have also opened an investigation into the intimidation of an elected official in the northeastern town of Colmar, where Renaissance deputy Brigitte Klinkert’s office was tagged with the threat: “You vote against us, we will remember.”
The latest polling from Ifop shows that Mr Macron’s approval ratings have plummeted to 28 per cent, levels not seen since the Yellow Vest crisis in 2019. The survey was carried out before the government pushed through the Bill on Thursday.
Trade unions have called for a ninth day of walkouts for March 23. Meanwhile, striking workers have shut down the biggest oil refinery in France, and the French civil aviation authority has asked airlines to cancel 30 per cent of flights from Paris-Orly airport for Monday.
Over the last three days, spontaneous protests held throughout France have become increasingly unruly and unpredictable, evoking the violent protests of the Yellow Vests in 2019.
On Saturday, police made 169 arrests across the country, most of which were carried out in Paris where 4,200 protesters gathered. Rubbish bins were lit on fire, protesters took their march into Westfield Forum Les Halles shopping centre where they lit coloured smoke flares indoors, and riots broke into clashes with police.
Getting a no-confidence motion to pass will be challenging – none has succeeded since 1962, and Macron’s centrist alliance still has the most seats in the National Assembly. A minority of conservatives could stray from the Republican party line, but it remains to be seen whether they are willing to bring down Macron’s government.
A ninth day of wider strikes and protests is planned for Thursday.