March against inflation ignites political tension in France



PARIS (AP) — Thousands of protesters, including France’s newly crowned Nobel laureate in literature, swarmed the streets of Paris on Sunday, in a show of anger at rising prices and mounting pressure on the president’s government. Emmanuel Macron.

The march for pay rises and other demands was organized by Macron’s left-wing opponents and lit the fuse for what promises to be an uncomfortable week for his centrist government.

Transport strikes called for Tuesday threaten to dovetail with wage strikes that have already hit refineries and fuel depots, causing chronic gasoline shortages that are unnerving millions of workers and other motorists who rely on their vehicles. with giant lines that form at service stations.

Macron’s government is also on the defensive in parliament, where it lost a majority in legislative elections in June. That makes it much more difficult for his centrist alliance to implement its domestic agenda in the face of strengthened opponents, and the parliamentary discussion of the government’s budget plan for next year is proving particularly difficult.

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In a fiery speech at the Paris march, far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon denounced Macron as “fried” and that his leadership is plunging France into “chaos.”

He predicted that Macron’s ministers would have to pass the budget in the lower house of parliament without giving lawmakers a vote, a controversial prospect that drew loud boos from the crowd.

Organizers claimed that more than 140,000 protesters marched. Paris police said they had no immediate estimate of the size of the dense, flag-waving crowd that filled squares and streets. There were some outbreaks of vandalism on the fringes, with dumpsters set on fire and ATMs smashed. Riot police kept order.

Joining Mélenchon was French author Annie Ernaux, who won the Nobel Prize for literature this year. Mélenchon, twice defeated by Macron in the presidential elections, declared the protest a “great success”.

Organizers called it a “march against the high cost of living and climate inaction.” In addition to calling for massive investment against the climate crisis, they also demanded emergency measures against high prices, including freezes on energy costs, essential goods and rents. , and by higher taxation of windfall profits.

Lawmaker Christophe Bex, of the left-wing party France Insoumise, or France Unbowed, called the march “a show of force” to show “that another world is finally possible if we are all together and all united.”

Another protester, retired rail worker Eric Doire, said: “What we want is for everyone to live decently with the purchasing power they had before.”

John Leicester at Le Pecq and Masha Macpherson in Paris contributed to this report.

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