A political crisis hits the heart of France and the closure of "refinery" looms on the horizon

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Opponents of pension reform in France continued to express their anger, Saturday, in new rallies and seek to close refineries, two days after the government passed the pension reform project requested by President Emmanuel Macron.

And the fear of a riot prompted the police to ban all gatherings in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

After two nights of unrest, police banned protesters from gathering on the Place de la Concorde and on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. This area is located near the headquarters of the National Assembly and the Elysee Presidential Palace.

And the police confirmed to “Agence France Presse” that they “will systematically expel people who will try to gather there,” and they may be fined, pointing out that “there are great risks in terms of disturbing public order and security.”

On Thursday, the government decided to pass the pension reform project requested by President Emmanuel Macron, based on Article 49.3 of the constitution, which allows for the adoption of a text without a vote on it in the National Assembly, unless a motion of no confidence leads to the overthrow of the government.

Accordingly, the opposition took a more extreme turn, prompted by young activists who were tired of the weekly gatherings, and it seems that they are ready for confrontation.

On Friday evening, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the Place de la Concorde in Paris to protest, like the previous day. Demonstrators set fires, and the atmosphere became tense when the police intervened at nightfall, according to AFP correspondents.

Hundreds of demonstrators threw bottles and firecrackers at the police, who responded by firing tear gas, trying to evacuate as it rained.

About 30,000 demonstrators gathered Thursday evening.

Setback for Macron

And there is almost unanimity that resorting to Article 49.3 of the constitution is considered a setback for Macron, who mortgaged his political assets for the sake of this reform, making it the most prominent project of his second presidential term.

Representatives submitted two motions of no confidence in the government, while labor unions called for demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday, and for a ninth day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday, March 23, in protest of the reform, the main clause of which is to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years.

And the Confederation General of Labor (CGT) announced that the largest refinery in the country, which is located in Normandy (northwest) and is run by the “Toal Energy” company, has begun to stop working.

This is an important step, since since the beginning of the protest movement, strikers have disrupted fuel shipments, but none of the seven French refineries have stopped working completely.

This process is technically complex and will take several days, but it is not expected to cause an immediate shortage of fuel at the French stations, but it may expand and include other French refineries.

At least two refineries, Petro Eneos in Blaveira (southeast) and Total Energy in Gonnefroville-Lorcher (northwest), may close no later than Monday, according to the Confederation General of Labor.

On Saturday, French Industry Minister Roland Lescure indicated that the government may take measures in the event of closing these facilities to avoid fuel shortages.

Denying democracy

In Buzançon (east), 300 demonstrators set fire on Saturday, and some of them burned their voter cards.

Thirty-year-old Natalie, who did not wish to reveal her full name, said: “How do I respond to young people who tell me that elections do not help anything?” I elected a representative on my behalf and he was prevented from voting. We are at the height of denial of democracy.”

On Monday, the French National Assembly will consider my motion of no-confidence in the government, according to parliamentary sources.

One of the two proposals was submitted, on Friday, by representatives of the independent “Leot” group, and “several parties participate in it.” Representatives from the left-wing “Nobs” coalition participated in signing this proposal.

Representatives from the far-right “National Rally” party, led by Marine Le Pen, also submitted another motion of no-confidence, stressing that they would vote “in favor of all motions of no-confidence submitted.”

To bring down the government, the absolute majority of the National Assembly must vote on a motion of no confidence, ie 287 votes. That would require about thirty right-wing Republicans (out of 61) to vote on the proposal. It is expected that the "Leot" proposal will gather the votes of different parties, unlike the "National Assembly" proposal.

On Friday, the Secretary General of the CFDT union, Laurent Berger, repeated his warning of the exacerbation of anger in the country, and called on the French president to “withdraw reform.”

The French government chose to raise the legal retirement age in response to the financial deterioration witnessed by pension funds and the aging of the population.

France is one of the European countries that adopts the lowest retirement age, knowing that the retirement systems in different countries are not fully comparable.

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