President Emmanuel Macron is on Monday to address France for the first time since signing into law his controversial pension reform, facing warnings the political and social crisis sparked by the changes is not over.
Macron signed the legislation early Saturday, just hours after the banner change to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 had been validated by the constitutional court, prompting accusations he was smuggling the law through in the dead of night.
After three months of protests and strikes, the left and unions have vowed not to give in and have warned of mass protests on the 1 May Labour Day.
Polls have consistently showed a majority of French remain opposed to the reform, which the government rammed through parliament using a controversial mechanism allowing it to be passed without a vote.
Meanwhile, Macron’s own personal popularity ratings have eroded, with some analysts suggesting he has given a head-start to far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the long path to 2027 elections.
The press has widely dubbed it a “Pyrrhic victory” after the Greek king who defeated the Romans but saw most of his army destroyed in the process.
‘President of chaos’
Macron is expected to address the nation around 1800 GMT, presidential sources said, in a speech that government spokesman Olivier Veran said Saturday would be in the spirit of “pacification”.
But the leader of the powerful CGT union Sophie Binet said in an interview with regional newspapers Sunday that Macron was “on his way to becoming the president of chaos”.
“He is opening the way to the National Rally” party of Le Pen, who was shown in one poll as the victor if the 2022 presidential election was re-run at the present time, she said.
“Emmanuel Macron is far from finished from having to deal with the social and political crisis, which he continues to dangerously stir up,” said Le Monde daily in an editorial.
It noted that Le Pen was the only French politician whose popularity has been notably boosted by the crisis, while trust in the country’s democratic institutions has fallen.
“The cost of the pensions reform appears to be exorbitant,” it said.
The crisis also comes at a time of increasing challenges on the international stage for Macron, who faced accusations of cosying up to China on a visit to Beijing last week.
‘Determined to accelerate’
Macron, 45, came to power in 2017 promising reform in France and a fresh new politics. But opponents accuse him of increasingly reclusive and anti-democratic behaviour.
“Emmanuel Macron no longer has authority ... so suddenly he is becoming brutal and authoritarian,” hard-left deputy Clementine Autain told French TV on Sunday.
Le Pen said Macron had three choices to end a crisis “which he created himself”—a referendum on the changes, legislative elections or resignation.
But Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne vowed Saturday the government would press ahead with more reforms now the pensions overhaul was passed.
“We are determined to accelerate” the pace of reforms, she told the national council of Macron’s Renaissance party.
Binet and other union bosses have called for a “popular and historic tidal wave” of people on the streets to oppose the reforms on 1 May.
As a prelude to the 1 May protests, railway unions are calling for a day of “railway anger” on 20 April.