‘French voters thought Hollande was Socialist, they got a Social Democrat instead’

French high school and university students attend a demonstration against the French labour law proposal in Paris, France, April 5, 2016 as the French Parliament will start to examine the contested reform bill. © Pascal Rossignol
France’s President Francois Hollande is trying to do what other Social Democrats did in other European countries, and that is frustrating a lot of French citizens, political analyst Pierre Schweitzer told RT.

There have been at least 130 arrests in Paris during an angry student protest against plans to relax French labor laws. Skirmishes broke out with protesters throwing stones at riot police, who responded with tear gas and batons. The student protests erupted not only in Paris but also in other major French cities, including Rennes, Lille, Marseille, Nantes and Strasbourg.

The changes could mean a longer working week from 35 hours to 48. Another blow could hit overtime pay with a plan to scrap the 10 percent minimum threshold.

RT: Do you think the government will take note of the anger seen across France right now?

Pierre Schweitzer: They will probably wait until the next demonstrations and see if they have a chance to hold on and pass the bill. But probably if the demonstrations degenerate again with a lot of violence, with potentially dangerous consequences to deal with the political power, they might withdraw the project, it is very possible - may be not likely - but definitely possible.   

RT: The government says the reforms would simply bring French labor laws in line with other European countries like Britain and Germany. So what's the problem?

PS: It is probably just an occasion to express all the things that made the French angry about this government. This is one of the very last massive reforms for Francois Hollande’s political mandate. People - and especially his own electors from the left who are very unhappy because they were waiting for something else, and this is probably the misunderstanding that had a lot of consequences. People who voted for Francois Hollande thought they were voting for a Socialist, and in fact they were just voting for a Social Democrat who now is trying to do what other Social Democrats did in other European countries. Except in other European countries, they presented themselves as Social Democrats and not Socialists.    

RT: President Hollande's government is deeply unpopular right now. Will he be able to get these reforms through?

PS: I would say under 50 percent, but that is just my guess. They will really try to hold on because they know if they fail at doing this reform, they will just end the mandate on a very bad note politically. If the youth gets too agitated, they will have to withdraw the project. And also you should never forget that the government has pressure from the people, but also from the left-wing of the party…  

RT: Why do we see so many students involved in this?

PS: I wrote a few articles during the last major reforms. For young people, it is socially important for young people to have a fight for their own generation. And my guess is that in this generation of people they didn’t have their great war, they didn’t have their great political fight. They probably feel that they need to fight for something. And this is probably a good occasion to get involved in something. But it is also very likely that they feel concerned and they feel that this labor reform will be at their detriment, which I think is a wrong idea. I think it will be all the better for them despite the appearance.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.