Over the past week in France social unrest has been a near-daily occurrence but it may be an everyday issue now, and until after the presidential election: public transport unions in Paris have called an “unlimited” strike starting March 25th, over rampant inflation.
Reduced purchasing power was the number one election issue in 2017 and 2012, but the unrest in Ukraine and the European Union’s response to it has sent costs haywire. It comes after a decade of right-wing austerity measures that suppressed wages, reduced social services, and decreased job stability, leaving the average person especially vulnerable to record-high prices.
Across the nation, unions were already protesting in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s promise to raise the retirement age to 65. It’s a bold gambit, given how unpopular such a change would be, but Macron appears to be betting that polls are correct and that he will win re-election.
Austerity, then the coronavirus, now the Ukraine-related instability – many say France is on the brink of a return to Yellow-vest kind of unrest if more far-right economic policies are demanded of the average person, but not of the rich.
France’s presidential election has been dominated by disinterest. Voters have tuned out a campaign that was based on Islamophobia and xenophobia and then the unrest in far-away Ukraine.
Many wonder if Macron’s call to raise the retirement age may have awoken a sleeping giant – the French public.
France seems to be ignoring – or has forgotten about – the presidential election, but regular protests are now reminding the country of the long-running domestic questions that France still faces. Some of the answers may be fought out in the streets over the next month.