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Le Pen warns France at risk of ‘social explosion’ over pensions reform

#Pen #warns #France #risk #social #explosion #pensions #reform

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen warned Tuesday that President Emmanuel Macron was pushing the country to the verge of a “social explosion” with his highly contested pensions reform.

“Consciously, the government is creating all the conditions for a social explosion, and it was foreseeable for months, as if they were looking for that,” Le Pen told AFP in an interview.

Speaking at her parliamentary office, Le Pen said she had told Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne last September that she would not try to rein in her supporters if Macron forced the changes through parliament without a vote, as he decided to do last Thursday.

“I’m not going to take part a second time in extinguishing the fire that you have started,” she said, referring to the government.

Le Pen said she had already played the role of “firefighter” in 2018-2019 during the so-called “Yellow Vests” revolt against Macron when protesters repeatedly clashed with police, blocked roads and rioted in Paris.

Amid widespread outrage about how the pensions law was pushed through, police arrested nearly 300 people country-wide overnight on Monday-Tuesday as protesters burned bins and vandalised property in cities including Paris, Dijon and Strasbourg.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Tuesday there had been 1,200 spontaneous demonstrations around the country since last Thursday, while 94 police officers had been injured.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. The French people feel angry, they feel humiliated and they feel that the rules of our democracy have been broken,” Le Pen told AFP.

– Two slaps – 

The 54-year-old — beaten twice by Macron in presidential elections in 2017 and 2022 — condemned the president’s decision to use article 49.3 of the constitution to force the reform through parliament without a vote last Thursday.

She urged him to organise a referendum — which he would almost certainly lose — or new elections for the National Assembly, which opinion polls suggest would result in a slight increase in seats for Le Pen’s National Rally. 

Ahead of a televised interview on Wednesday, Macron told allies on Tuesday that he intended to resist calls to sack Borne and reshuffle his government, and would not be dissolving parliament or calling a referendum.

“He’s choosing, after the slap of the 49.3, to give the French people a second slap by saying ‘everything that’s happened will have no effect’. No dissolution, no reshuffle, no withdrawal of the law. We’re going to continue as if nothing happened,” Le Pen said.

She said she expected “nothing” from Macron’s interview and questioned his choice of speaking at 1pm (1200 GMT) when most working people affected by the reform would be at their jobs. 

Many commentators believe Le Pen stands to benefit politically from the disorder and outrage sparked by Macron’s tactics, partly thanks to her long-standing pledge to consult voters via referendums to govern.

Two-thirds of French people are against Macron’s pension reform, opinion polls show.

“France is not an ungovernable country. It’s a country that has been governed against its wishes,” Le Pen argued. “For 40 years, France wanted mass immigration to stop, but for 40 years it’s been accelerated.” 

– Ukraine –

Asked about her views on the war in Ukraine, Le Pen reiterated her opposition to giving so-called “offensive weapons” to Kyiv, which France and its NATO allies are doing in ever greater quantities. 

“It will transform the conflict into a world war. I’m profoundly opposed. I’m profoundly a defender of peace,” she said , adding that France’s role should be “organising a big peace conference.”

“I was in favour of giving defensive material (to Ukraine) — protective equipment or possibly air defence missiles — but nothing that would enable an attack against a neighbouring country,” she said.

Le Pen’s party once took a loan from a Russian bank, and the far-right leader had professed admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin before his invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

“If Ukraine wins the war against Russia, I will be delighted, but I’m against entering into a war against Russia,” she added.

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#Pen #warns #France #risk #social #explosion #pensions #reform

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