What now for France – after over a million people piled onto the streets in protest at a new jobs law? That is the question being asked by the press amid mounting pressure on the country’s prime minister.
Although largely peaceful, the rallies were marked by sporadic violence. Yesterday also saw a nationwide strike that brought large parts of public transport to a standstill. Dominique de Villepin is willing to discuss the law but not to abandon it. So the unions have turned to the president, asking him to intervene. Jacques Chirac is expected to speak out in the days ahead. The measure, aimed at cutting youth unemployment, has deeply divided the ruling conservative UMP party. There are growing signs that the high-profile interior minister is distancing himself from the beleagured premier. Nicolas Sarkozy says the government should not rush to bring the law into effect – thereby leaving the door open for further talks.Critics denounce the law as it will allow bosses to sack workers under 26 without explanation during a two-year trial period. Already, a new day of action has been agreed for next week. Police will be on alert then after Tuesday’s rioting, notably in Paris. Hundreds of youths were arrested after hooligans hijacked part of the protests.