The French “have realised by now that we must put a stop to ultra-liberalism, mass immigration, insecurity and general laxness,” the leader of the rightwing Rassemblement National (RN) party added in a joint interview with RTL radio, LCI television and newspaper Le Figaro. Mme Le Pen announced her intention to stand in the 2022 presidential race in January, telling her supporters she was proposing “a grand alternative to put the country back on its feet” and create “national unity”.
The veteran reached the runoff round in 2017 but suffered a crushing defeat to M Macron, who won the election with more than 60 percent of the vote.
But M Macron’s euphoria was short-lived, and he is now in the midst of one of the most challenging periods of his presidency.
The 42-year-old centrist is grappling with a social crisis over his controversial plans to overhaul the country’s complex pension system.
Far-left unions and opposition members are up in arms over his bid to merge the country’s 42 separate retirement schemes into a single, points-based system giving every worker equal rights for each euro contributed.
The reform also sweeps away dozens of special pension regimes, some dating back hundreds of years, that offer early retirement and other benefits to public sector workers as well as lawyers, physiotherapists and even Paris Opera employees.
The government says the changes are necessary to make the debt-ridden system more sustainable and fairer for all.
But opponents argue the plan will force millions of people to work longer for less and invest in private US-style schemes.
The planned pension reform sparked France’s longest transport strike in decades, but the battle has now moved from the streets to parliament, where some lawmakers have pledged to derail M Macron’s plans.
Opposition politicians mainly from the left have introduced some 41,000 amendments to the draft bill in a bid to stop the government from passing the reform in two to three weeks as planned.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the hard-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party told BFM television: “We’re going to make life hard for them, that’s for sure.
“M Macron will never recover from this attempt to destroy pensions.”
Macron loyalists, for their part, have denounced the far left’s “guerrilla tactics” as undemocratic.
But the row over pensions has dented M Macron’s popularity, a poll published on Tuesday showed.
The survey of 1,005 people, conducted by pollster Odoxa on February 19-20, found that just 33 percent of French people think M Macron is a “good” president, compared with 66 percent who think the opposite.
The government still hopes the pension bill will be voted on before the summer recess.
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