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Peaceful mass demonstration against pension reform in Paris on January 19. 2023. Twitter

French pension reform: 150 000 young demonstrators according to organisers

Some 150 000 students marched in Paris on January 21 against pension reform, according to the youth organisations that initiated the demonstration, but only 14 000 according to sources close to the Macron administration.

Published: January 23, 2023, 8:19 am

    Two days after the day of protest against pension reform called by the unions, it was the turn of youth organisations to march in the capital on Saturday. “We are 150 000. The #March21January is a huge success,” wrote Colin Champion, president of the union La Voix Lycéenne, on Twitter, while L’Alternative, another student union, hailed “a very massive mobilisation at the call of the youth”.

    This figure was also taken up by La France insoumise (LFI), a supporter of the demonstration, and other youth movements within the parties present in the march. Jean Luc Mélenchon criticised the Occurrence tally. According to Occurrence carried out for a group of media, including AFP, the procession was made up of only 14 000 people between the Place de la Bastille and the Place de la Nation.

    This figure was strongly criticised by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who was present at the demonstration. The rebel accused Occurrence on Twitter of being a “manipulative Macronist agency”.

    A police source estimated the attendance at 12 000. These estimates are far from those of the January 19 mobilisation. Between one and two million people had demonstrated throughout France, depending on the estimates of the police or those of the CGT, during this first big day of mobilisation against Macron’s pension reform.

    However, the objective of the march on January 21 was to obtain a mobilisation at least equal to that of the “march against the high cost of living” organised by the rebels last October, which had attracted 140 000 participants according to the organisers, and 30 000 according to the police. The draft law on pensions includes the extension of the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years, and is to be presented on January 23 in the Council of Ministers.

    Trade union march a huge success

    The eight main trade unions have meanwhile agreed on a new day of strikes and demonstrations against pension reform on January 31.

    The representatives of the unions met in the late afternoon of January 19 at the headquarters of Solidaires, after a day of strikes and demonstrations that brought together 1,12 million according to the Ministry of the Interior and more than two million according to the secretary general of the CGT.

    This is a level of mobilization higher than that of December 5, 2019. At the start of the protest against the previous draft pension reform, the police had counted 806 000 demonstrators in France, the CGT 1.5 million.

    President Macron, PM slipping in the polls

    According to an Ifop poll the president of the Republic and his prime minister have seen their popularity ratings drop by 2 and 4 points respectively as the government tries to defend its pension reform.

    The popularity ratings of Emmanuel Macron and Elisabeth Borne fell by 2 and 4 points respectively in January, against the backdrop of pension reform, according to the poll for the Journal du dimanche (JDD) published on 22 January, with only 34 percent of the respondents saying they were satisfied with the action of the head of state.

    According to this monthly barometer, this is a decline of seven points in total since his re-election last April. It is also the lowest level for Emmanuel Macron since February 2020, on the eve of the Covid-19 crisis, and again in a tense context of pension reform.

    Elisabeth Borne’s rating has fell to 32 percent of favorable opinions, its worst result since her accession to Matignon. The Prime Minister presented the government’s pension reform project on January 10, which she must have adopted on 23 January in the Council of Ministers before its arrival in Parliament at the end of the month.

    The text includes a postponement of the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years. This reform project has already been strongly contested, both by the opposition and by the unions, which organised a hugely successful day of action on January 19.

    The survey was conducted online and by telephone, from 12 to 19 January, among a sample of 1 963 people representative of the French population aged 18 and over, according to the quota method, with a margin of error of between 1 and 2,3 points.

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