French President Emmanuel Macron was left (partially) in the dark when union workers at a factory he was visiting in northeastern France cut off the power. The country remains gripped by mass protests over the deeply unpopular pension reform.
Macron visited several communes on Wednesday during a tour of the northeast of the country. His stop in Muttersholtz, which included a meeting with workers, officials, and media at a woodworking factory, was marred by a gesture of discontent from his critics. Minutes before the president’s arrival, the electricity was cut in the entire neighborhood, French media reported. The delegation had to spend some time in a poorly-lit environment, though the sky windows allowed some light in, images from the scene show.
“Energy companies will be everywhere and the president will be in darkness!” Fabrice Coudour, a senior officer of the CGT union, which claimed credit for the protest action, explained to the Huffington Post.
Macron expressed defiance, dismissing a rally of pension protesters outside the factory, which greeted him by banging on pans. People who only want to complain will not move France forward, he told journalists.
“The reality is there are also a lot of men and women in the country who are now at work, who want to make a better living, to earn more and for the working conditions to improve,” he said.
The Macron government recently pushed through reforms that raise the retirement age by two years, claiming it is necessary to prop up the country’s pension system. This led to nationwide protests and union strikes. The use of his constitutional power to avoid putting the reform to a vote in parliament only added fuel to the public’s discontent.
A French MP representing the regional constituency used Macron’s visit to object to the controversial legislative tactics. Emmanuel Fernandes, who was among the local officials accompanying the president, wore a cover over his mouth with the number 49-3 written on it, in reference to the constitutional article which allowed the government to circumvent parliament.
Speaking to BFMTV after the stunt, he dismissed Macron’s tour as an attempt to make people “forget his isolation.”