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Macron defiant as anger smoulders over French pension reform

PARIS (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron appeared defiant on Tuesday after his government narrowly survived no-confidence votes over an increase in the retirement age, but urged calm as furious protesters kept up the pressure on the streets.

Ignoring calls from opponents, Macron said there would be no government reshuffle, no fresh parliamentary elections and no referendum on his controversial pension reform, even in the face of widespread protests that have brought millions into the streets.

“We are facing a moment in which we must appease, calm, go on the ground and listen to people’s anger,” he told a meeting of politicians, according to participants.

The government’s decision to invoke constitutional power to force the pensions reform through the National Assembly without a vote last week has dismayed political allies and caused fury on the streets.

As thousands gathered in central Paris and other French cities for another night of protests, Macron said “riots do not prevail over the representatives of the people”.

Police fired teargas at the Paris protesters and made more arrests, after nearly 300 people were already detained on Monday night, including 234 in the capital.

Macron’s centrist government narrowly survived two no-confidence motions in Parliament on Monday, clearing the way for the legislation raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Demonstrations also took place in Grenoble, Rennes, Lille and Nantes, where scuffles broke out. Similar scenes also played out in the eastern cities of Dijon and Strasbourg, where protesters smashed the windows of a department store.

Riot police officers detain a protester near Place de la Republique during a demonstration in France. PHOTO: AFP