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France’s Uprising:  How Franco-Arabs View the Situation

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France’s Uprising:  How Franco-Arabs View the Situation

By Almoutassim Al Kilani

France is experiencing internal turmoil that has not occurred since the student revolution in the spring of 1968. According to most French protestors, this uprising is against President Emmanuel Macron’s insistence on resorting to Article 49.3 of the constitution without resorting to the General Assembly and not referring the amendments to the retirement law directly to the Senate. 
More than three million protestors gathered on “Black Thursday,” according to the French Unions, while at the same time, the Ministry of Interior said that the number was one million. Authorities said protests saw the participation of 650,000 to 900,000 demonstrators, including 70,000 to 100,000 in Paris, on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. 
The current strikes include the disruption of train services and flights and the closure of some schools. Furthermore, six of the seven oil refineries are closed or operating at a reduced capacity, in addition to the complete closure of the TOTAL ports.

The French government is arguing that the population’s life expectancy is not proportional to the current retirement age and is working to make it longer. However, the European Commission recommended raising the retirement age in the European Union countries years ago for financial balance with old-age retirement funds. This maneuver by Macron succeeded, and the law passed in Belgium and Spain with little resistance, unlike France, which today is witnessing strong opposition to this law. 
Macron’s government also wants to privatize French and European security funds to cover the financial imbalances in the existing voluntary retirement saving system. Pushing workers to leave before completing the necessary years to obtain a full retirement will make the government save significant sums by not paying a full pension and thus finding an additional financial resource. France is now $3 billion in debt with 0.5% added interest. 
Arab dissidents’ opinions about this movement varied. Nael Hariri, a medical doctor, and tenured French political activist, stated that Macron’s rule is heading toward political failure and is not focusing on improving its performance. In his opinion, Macron’s political party Together benefited from fear of the alternative attitude among the French towards the country’s extreme right. Macron and his party pushed persistently and perhaps recklessly, confident of the opposition’s inability to resolve its differences to confront him. The Together Pary priorities tended to favor Europe more than France. In their conviction, the political space has become more dangerous, and the successive files of Covid, Ukraine, and the climate have increased Marcon’s insistence on raising the retirement age. 
Syrian-French journalist Sakhr Idriss, director of Al-Muhajiroun Now, believes that tens of thousands of people continue to demonstrate in France in general and Paris in particular, despite the use of violence and intense clashes with the police. This indicates the French citizen’s persistence in not passing the decision to raise the retirement age so easily. The government may be playing on the factor of time and exhaustion that will befall those who object to the decision.
Nidal Kanso, a Lebanese-French journalist, noted that Freedom of expression and the right to assembly are guaranteed in the French constitution. In Kanso’s view, police forces are overreacting to the demonstrators and are expecting to rein in these demonstrations, as with the Yellow Vest movement. Kanso believes these demonstrations will increase daily, and the demonstrators will not surrender to opposition parties. The situation will get worse if President Macron is intransigent in his decision.
Sally Aied, an active party member of President Macron’s party and political science student, said, “These demonstrations are disrupting state departments and daily workflow. Protests dominated by violence will not achieve positive results.” 
The General Assembly failed to vote more confidently, making the law legally valid. The decision must, at that time, respect the democratic means and the street should return to their everyday lives, as there is no point in what is happening now except chaos.
Can the French president and his government pass the law and turn the page on the protests, as he did previously with the yellow vests, or will the protests continue? The unrest is increasing daily. The new Environmental and Social People’s Union coalition leaders are now chanting, “The fight continues.”
March 30, 2023

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