By Nur Asena Erturk
ANKARA (AA) – France had a boiling weekend following the government's decision to force through controversial pension reform without a parliamentary vote.
Thousands gathered in Place de la Concorde square near the National Assembly, as they did on Thursday and Friday, after President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne pushed through the reforms, bypassing the parliamentary process.
Spontaneous protests started on Saturday and Sunday in Paris and other cities, where police strongly intervened in violent groups that were burning street furniture and vandalizing some buildings.
Hundreds of protesters were arrested, according to media reports.
"The shadow of the guillotine arrives," wrote protesters with spray paint on a wall near the National Assembly, close to the spot where French King Louis XVI was decapitated in 1793, the daily Le Figaro said.
Protesters also burned the effigies of Macron and Borne.
- Extended walkouts
Meanwhile, workers in many sectors extended their strikes that began on March 6-7.
The national railway company SNCF announced that the railway traffic will remain disrupted on Monday, and the French Directorate General for Civil Aviation urged companies to cancel some of their flights in Paris and Marseille because much of the airport staff will be attending the strike action, seriously disrupting air traffic, Le Figaro noted.
- Parliamentary process
Workers and trade unions have expressed their growing furor over the decision of Macron and Borne to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution.
After it was passed by the Senate, the final version of the draft bill was supposed to be taken up for parliamentary approval.
Macron and Borne, however, opted to use special constitutional powers to bypass the parliamentary process.
The decision was driven by the fear that lawmakers would be able to block the reforms as the government does not have an absolute majority.
Opposing parties last week submitted no-confidence motions in parliament, which will be voted on this evening, according to broadcaster BFMTV.
The reforms include raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 in 2030, requiring at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension.
The plan has triggered public outrage since it was revealed last year, with massive protests and strikes across the country since January.