Thousands of protesters marched in Paris on Wednesday, adding to the growing anger and defiance against inflation following three weeks of refinery strikes in France that created fuel shortages. In a protest on Sunday against rising living costs, the left-wing opposition led by Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of France Unbowed, called the demonstration. In a show of anger against the increasing cost of living and to pressure President Emmanuel Macron’s government, officials carried out a protest to show their protest.
Thousands of protesters marched in Paris on Sunday to protest mounting living costs amid an increasingly tense political environment that led to strikes at oil refineries and nuclear power plants; an alliance of left-wing political parties organized the march.#ParisProtest pic.twitter.com/u6mHsGngQ5
— Live News Now (@LiveNewsNow6) October 17, 2022
Organizers called it a “march against the high cost of living and climate inaction.” Besides calling for massive investments to prevent the climate crisis, they are also urging emergency measures to tackle high prices. Among their demands are freezes in energy, essential goods, and rent prices, as well as greater taxation of corporate windfall profits in the wake of the financial crisis. As part of the demonstrations, some protesters wore yellow florescent vests, a symbol of the often-violent anti-government protests that rocked the pro-business government of Macron in 2018.
Protests Cause Crowding at Petrol Stations
At the end of September, Macron’s opponents began a standoff over refineries which they hope to build upon. The transport strikes scheduled for Tuesday threaten to coincide with wage strikes that have already disrupted fuel refineries and depots, causing chronic gasoline shortages affecting millions of workers and other motorists. The strikes result in long lines at petrol stations.
Melenchon said from atop a truck in the middle of the crowd, “We’re going to have a week like we don’t see very often.” He continued, “Everything is coming together.” He concluded, “The march is a successful start to the week.” The organizers claimed that 140,000 people attended the rally on Sunday. The police had predicted that around thirty thousand people would attend the event.
Overwhelmed and Exhausted
An award-winning author, Annie Ernaux, who recently received the Nobel Prize in Literature, was among the demonstrators. Melenchon stated that Macron’s leadership is dragging France into chaos. There is a defensive posture by Macron’s government in parliament following the loss of its majority in legislative elections held in June. It makes implementing his domestic agenda against strengthened opponents much more challenging for his centrist alliance, and next year’s budget plan discussion in parliament is proving particularly problematic.
French unions have announced a nationwide strike for Tuesday, but not all have announced the date. The strike will likely affect railways, roads, and the public sector. The government is closely monitoring the strikes and protests as it hopes to implement a highly controversial change to the pension system within the next few months. The newly re-elected Macron has promised to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65, with the reform expected to take place before the winter’s end.
Four of seven French refineries remained closed on Sunday, all belonging to TotalEnergies, a Paris-based energy group. However, a deal was announced Friday between the French company and the two largest unions representing employees at its refineries, raising hopes that the standoff may be over. Although the hardline CGT union refuses to accept the offer, its members continue to maintain picket lines. Gabriel Attal, the Minister of Budget, denounced the continuation of the strike on Sunday as “unacceptable.” At the same time, Medef, a lobby group for business interests, claimed that “150 people are holding the country to ransom.”
The company said that the workers at two other refineries owned by the US group Esso-ExxonMobil had resumed work as of the end of last week. However, the company expects the refineries to take two weeks to resume normal operations. Al Jazeera reported a fuel shortage at around one-third of petrol stations in the country, leading to drivers having to wait many hours to refuel their vehicles.
Many companies have cut back on deliveries and travel; emergency vehicles are also in short supply. Energy companies have made enormous profits from record fuel prices, prompting sympathy for workers advocating for higher wages. However, a poll conducted by the BVA polling group on Friday indicated that only thirty-seven percent of respondents were in support of the strike action. Several coalition allies, including the Greens, Socialists, and Communists, joined Melenchon’s party to call for Sunday’s protest march through Paris.
Macron no Longer has an Absolute Majority
One participant stood out in the group of politicians leading the cortege: Annie Ernaux, this year’s Nobel Prize winner in literature. The latter has been an active member of the left on numerous occasions. In a high-risk week, where President Macron no longer has an absolute majority in the National Assembly, several legislators argued that the march served as a means of putting pressure on the government.
BREAKING: Tens of thousands of people demonstrated today in the streets of Paris against the high cost of living crisis 🚨
Although it looks more like a parade and party. I guess the French just like to protest and get together to drink wine.
— Wall Street Silver (@WallStreetSilv) October 16, 2022
The contested budget bill could lead to a crisis for the government. Most opposition members have pledged not to vote for the measure, stalling the debate. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced Sunday evening that the government would probably use special constitutional powers to pass the bill without a vote, perhaps as early as this week.
Members of the opposition would also be able to put forward votes of no confidence through that mechanism. However, it appears unlikely that a government collapse will occur because the center-right opposition does not seem to favor the measure, though Guiraud, a France Unbowed lawmaker, confirmed Sunday that the left-wing coalition would put forward the proposal.