Le Pen warns France at risk of 'social explosion' over pensions reform
published : 22 Mar 2023 at 02:45
PARIS - French far-right leader Marine Le Pen warned Tuesday that President Emmanuel Macron was pushing the country to the verge of a "social explosion" with his highly contested pensions reform.
"Consciously the government is creating all the conditions for a social explosion, as if they were looking for that," Le Pen told AFP in an interview, adding that she would not help "extinguish the fire" of public anger over the legislation.
Speaking at her parliamentary office, Le Pen said she had told Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne last September that she would not try to rein in her supporters if Macron forced the changes through parliament without a vote, as he decided to do last Thursday.
"I'm not going to take part a second time in extinguishing the fire that you have started," she said, referring to the government.
Le Pen said she had already played the role of "firefighter" in 2019 during the so-called "Yellow Vests" revolt against Macron when protesters clashed repeatedly with police, blocked roads and rioted in Paris.
Amid widespread outrage about the way in which the pensions law is being pushed through, police arrested nearly 300 people overnight on Monday-Tuesday as protesters burned bins and vandalised property in cities including Paris, Dijon and Strasbourg.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Tuesday there had been 1,200 spontaneous demonstrations around the country since last Thursday, while 94 police officers had been injured.
Le Pen, beaten twice by Macron in presidential elections in 2017 and 2022, said her opponent was "the only person with the keys" to help the country emerge from what she termed a "political crisis".
The 54-year-old has condemned Macron's decision to use article 49.3 of the constitution to force the reform through parliament without a vote and has urged him to organise a referendum -- which he would almost certainly lose.
Ahead of a televised interview on Wednesday, the president told allies on Tuesday that he intended to resist calls to sack Borne and reshuffle his government, and would not be dissolving parliament or calling a referendum.
"He's choosing after the slap of the 49.3 to give the French people a second slap by saying 'everything that's happened will have no effect'. No dissolution, no reshuffle, no withdrawal of the law. We're going to continue as if nothing happened," Le Pen said.
"I don't know what's going to happen. The French people feel angry, they feel humiliated and they feel that the rules of our democracy have been broken," she added.
She said she expected "nothing" from Macron's interview and questioned his choice of speaking at 1pm (1200 GMT) when most working people affected by the reform would be at their jobs.