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Macron avoids crowds on latest provincial trip

#Macron #avoids #crowds #latest #provincial #trip

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday steered clear from close contact with the public as he made a new foray into provincial France in the wake of his signing of a hugely unpopular pension reform.

A visit Macron made to eastern France last Wednesday was marked by acrimonious face-to-face confrontations between the head of state and some inhabitants unhappy over the raise in the retirement age to 64 from 62 and his style of governance.

Just over one year since he won his second mandate in office, his trip to the Loire region of central France saw no similar walkabout to meet area residents, an AFP correspondent said.

Hundreds of people had turned up banging saucepans — a traditional symbol of political protest in France — but Macron was instead whisked into the health centre in the town of Vendome that he was visiting.

“It’s to wake up our president, so that he stops making fun of us,” said Bruno Vivien, a retired metallurgy worker who made his protest heard with a bugle. 

They made their dissatisfaction known by banging pots and booing within audible distance of the president, who at the end of his visit was flown back to Paris by helicopter.

The local authority had banned any protest around the area where Macron was visiting but a court in the nearby city of Orleans overturned this ruling after complaints from rights groups.

– ‘Incitement to violence’ –

With his popularity plunging after the signing of the pension reform, Macron has set a 100-day target to relaunch his second mandate, with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne due to announce plans on Wednesday.

“We must look at the heart of the subject and the life of our compatriots and not the adornments,” said Macron, who during the trip made no major announcement on the health sector.

The tensions are being felt throughout Macron’s government with Education Minister Pap Ndiaye’s visit to Lyon on Monday disrupted when protesters stormed an institute he was due to visit.

The minister later angrily denounced posts on Twitter giving the time of his return train to Paris and telling people to rally at the station.

“A photo of the target, meeting time in a train station: this is an incitement to violence,” he wrote on Twitter.

The presence of hundreds of protesters at Gare de Lyon station in Paris meant that Ndiaye was delayed from disembarking from his TGV train and had to be escorted out by a side door.

– ‘Not present enough’ –

Meanwhile, after protesters were filmed burning an effigy of Macron in the southeastern city of Grenoble, prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into showing contempt for a person holding public authority.

Macron, 45, admitted over the weekend that he may not have been physically present enough in the campaign to pass the pension reform, which only went through parliament after the government used a mechanism to bypass a vote by MPs.

“Perhaps the mistake was not being sufficiently present,” he said in the Le Parisien newspaper.

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