An estimated three million people took to the streets of France in a second round of demonstrations against President Nicolas Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis.
The rallies, which, according to polls, are backed by three quarters of the French population, reflect growing disillusion with Sarkozy’s reforms as tens of thousands of jobs are lost to the downturn. Bernard Thibault of the CGT union said: “If there are three million people, it is the call of the unions that have something important and serious to defend. We must simply accept the principle of negotiation.” Jean-Claude Mailly of the FO union agreed. “The government can not remain in a state of waiting,” he said. “There are tough conflicts ahead and if the government does not respond it will have a fight on its hands.” More than two million people are out of work in France and even those with jobs are struggling with the high cost of living. But François Fillon, the French Prime Minister, ruled out any further stimulus packages. “It was the measures taken to aid recovery that have doubled the budget deficit this year,” he said. “I think the French people understand we cannot go any further. Not only would it be a big mistake for future generations, but it would also prevent the recovery.” Several hundred youths clashed briefly with police at the end of the main union rally in Paris.