Can people power force France’s President to back down?
The answer is anyone’s guess with protesters and Nicolas Sarkozy looking equally determined to have the last word in a tug of war over pension reform.
Thousands of students piled onto the streets of Paris and provincial cities in the latest round of the power struggle. Hundreds of schools and some universities have been disrupted amid fears that raising the retirement age will worsen youth unemployment.
“We will be in trouble for longer,” explained one teenager in the Paris demonstration. “The extra years that the ‘oldies’ are going to work will be extra years that we will spend looking for a job.”
“I think there is widespread annoyance,” a woman added. “We need reform but the one being proposed is unfair. It has not been negotiated and never been discussed. It has been rushed through. We are told we must work longer, but companies class you as old at 55 and kick you out.”
Road-blocks, strikes and rallies look set to continue. France’s main unions have called for two new days of official protest action.
It comes as the government is taking steps to speed up the passage of its contested pension bill in the Senate.
No let-up in France's pension power struggle