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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
James Crisp and Henry Samuel

‘The king is dead’ – Emmanuel Macron’s popularity plummets as banks set ablaze in violent French protests

A protester sets a garbage bin on fire during clashes in Paris. Photo: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Emmanuel Macron’s popularity dropped to its lowest level since the yellow vest movement, as banks were set ablaze yesterday amid violent protests against the French president’s pension reforms.

On a 10th day of strikes and protests across France, support for Mr Macron was close to the 27pc low reached in December 2018, when the gilets jaunes demonstrations rocked his government.

Only 30pc of people thought he was a “good president”, down by six points in a month, according to the Odoxa poll published as Mr Macron continued to defy unions and the millions who have opposed his pensions bill since mid-January.

Seventy per cent of respondents judged him negatively in the survey for regional newspapers, which was published nearly a fortnight after he rammed through a new pensions law raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.

French president Emmanuel Macron

Public frustration has evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment. Banners were hoisted reading “the king is dead” and “raise wages not the retirement age”, as a march of tens of thousands of protesters in the capital began.

“The bill has acted as a catalyst for anger over Macron’s policies,” said Fanny Charier (31), who works for the Pole Emploi office for job seekers.

Record numbers of security forces were deployed across France after Thursday’s pitched battles with demonstrators on the streets of Paris.

Up to 13,000 members of the security forces, including 5,500 in Paris alone, were deployed yesterday after 457 people were arrested and 441 police officers were injured on Thursday, ahead of marches that were expected to attract a million people.

They were supported by armoured cars, water cannon and military units in reserve, amid fears the protests would be hijacked by anarchist groups just days after a state visit by King Charles was cancelled because of the violence.

A protester holds a cut-out depicting President Emmanuel Macron during a demonstration on Place de la Concorde to protest pension reforms. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes

Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister, said: “Radicalised elements from the Left and the ultra-Left want to hijack the trade union processions. Their aim is to bring fire and blood to France.”

The most feared group is Black Bloc – an alliance of anarchists from all over Europe, which was expected to be out in force for the demonstrations.

Raphael Dupont (49), a former air steward, said: “The Black Blocs will soon be here. They attack banks and other signs of capitalism. I’m against violence but this government is so deaf it may be the only thing that works.”

Protesters blocked train tracks and motorways, and clashed with police in some cities.

One protester in Paris seemed to capture the mood, brandishing a banner that read: “France is angry”.

Earlier in the day, the government rejected a new demand by unions to suspend and rethink the pension bill, which will delay retirement age by two years to 64, infuriating labour leaders who said the government must find a way out of the crisis.

The government said it was more than willing to talk to unions, but on other topics, and repeated it would stand firm on the pension front. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2023)

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