Why President Hollande fears France's students

By and

A total of 20 student and youth organisations have called for protests on Wednesday, March 9th against the government's proposed reforms of employment law. Though the formal presentation of the bill has now been postponed pending further discussions with trade unions, ministers still fear the spectre of widespread social mobilisation, of the kind seen ten years ago that sank plans for new workplace contracts. In particular, President François Hollande is afraid the final months of his presidency would be doomed if students take to the streets in large numbers. Lénaïg Bredoux and Faïza Zerouala report on the unpredictability of France's student protests.

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François Hollande could not have been more explicit when he gave his famous campaign speech at Le Bourget near Paris in January 2012 during the last presidential election. “It's for our country's youth that I want to be president of France,” he said, promising that young people would be his priority if he were elected. Yet four years into his five-year term and the president is now faced with one of his worst nightmares: that of a protest movement by students and school pupils against his plans to reform the country's employment laws.