protesters marched through Paris on Sunday against a European fiscal
pact, the first major display of public anger to face President Francois
Hollande since his May election.
The march organised by the Left
Front coalition drew trade unionists, far-left sympathisers and other
opponents of the EU accord, two days before lawmakers start to debate a
draft law of the budget pact in the lower house of parliament.
budget discipline pact, which Hollande supports, is expected to pass in
both houses of parliament thanks to support from Socialist lawmakers
helped by advocates of fiscal discipline in the centre-right opposition.
the vote has exposed rifts in Hollande's ruling coalition, with
far-left allies and Greens planning to vote against it in a challenge to
the increasingly unpopular Socialist leader's authority.
Hollande has to rely on opponents to pass the pact, the vote could
deepen the rift in his alliance and embolden left-wing allies seeking a
change of course from strict adherence to European deficit targets.
him (Hollande), this vote was a formality that simply needed to be
rushed through," said Jean-Luc Melenchon, a fiery leftist orator who
ranked fourth in an April presidential vote.
"Now he will understand this is not the case, that in france
and in the rest of Europe there is an organised opposition to this pact and to all austerity policies."
his signature red scarf, Melenchon marched at the head of protesters
among giant banners bearing slogans such as "Francois Hollande, We Don't
Want Your Treaty" and "In greece
and in France, Let's Fight Against Finance".
It was the latest in a series of protests across southern Europe this week as tens of thousands took to streets in Spain, Italy
, Greece and Portugal to voice their anger over hardship imposed by austerity policies.
Hollande, the outcry from many people who voted him into power
highlights the difficulty of pleasing a largely left-wing support base
even as he shuns painful cuts to welfare programmes.
2013 budget unveiled on Friday shaves 30 billion euros (23.8 billion
pounds) off the public deficit, largely through tax increases on big
businesses and the wealthy. But it avoids the type of painful austerity
measures imposed elsewhere in Europe.
to preserve the generous public safety net have done little to preserve
Hollande's approval rating, which has plummeted since his election,
hitting a low of 43 percent in one poll last week.
treaty will considerably worsen the situation in the European Union and
in France," said one protester, Pierre Khalfa. "We can already see that
austerity policies in Europe are leading to recession, so we need to
start a movement against these policies, which will lead our country
into a wall."
Left Front organisers said some 40,000 people joined the Paris protest. Police declined to provide an estimate.