Protesters echo Mélenchon's 'no' to austerity
France’s Left Front Leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon rounded up supporters on Sunday against austerity and the European fiscal treaty. Thousands of people and more than sixty organisations took part in a protest through the streets of Paris.
“Today is the day where the French people begin our movement against a politics based on austerity,” Mélenchon said on Sunday.
The protest is a first for the Communist party since the presidential elections, when Mélenchon ran for the top spot. It comes at a time of rising unemployment (pegged at over three million), tax hikes and increasing disapproval of President François Hollande’s leadership.
“They are going to try to capture the atmosphere of indignation that seems to be felt by many, in light of the current economic situation… and capitalise on it,” Eddy Fougier, researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic relations, told the AFP news agency.
The call to protest comes just days after France’s Socialist government announced its budget for 2013, which focuses heavily on austerity programs.
The government proposed a series of tax rises and spending cuts in order to save up to 37 billion euros, which is needed to bring down its budget deficit.
France will need to get its deficit down to three percent to be in line with targets set by the European Union.
Lowering deficit levels is one of the stipulations of the European fiscal pact, which Mélenchon and his Left Front party oppose.
Organisers put out a written statement about the pact ahead of the protest, saying that it “pulls the entire European Union down into a depressing spiral that risks bringing widespread poverty. It would be like going back to the Second World War.”
Protesters hope their voices will be heard, ahead of debates over the fiscal pact at France’s parliament on Tuesday.
The Communist party received support for Sunday's protest from several leaders of fellow extreme left parties in Europe, including José-Luis Centalla from Spain’s communist party and the head of Germany’s Die Linke party, Bernd Riexinger.