After a few false starts, spring has decidedly sprung in Paris. As quickly as the flicking of a switch, the days are long, the sun is shining, flowers are bursting, and Parisians are flocking to terraces, parks and the banks of the Seine and Canal Saint Martin to soak it all in. This Sunday afternoon the lawns of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, the lungs of northeast Paris, were packed with Parisians (including myself) desperate to finally absorb some rays of sunshine, making me acutely aware of how sunshine is not only a mental but also physical craving.
Beneath this rosy exterior, however, France continues to grapple with its changing reality, as discomfort and discontent continue to grow. The attacks in Brussels on 22 March, and the string of arrests in both Brussels and Paris that followed, served as a harrowing reminder that terrorism remains serious threat. As part of its response, the French government has proposed to extend the state of emergency yet again, causing one to wonder whether this is in fact the new normal.
The ras-de-bol  that the French have been feeling for months, if not years, is finally bubbling over in many shapes and forms. SNCF railworkers have been striking on and off, causing havoc on suburban trains, and les intermittents de spectacle (those who work in theatre) have cancelled shows across some of the city’s most prestigious venues. On a larger scale, hundreds of thousands have been protesting against the loi de travail (labour law) nationwide, concerned that it will give employers too much power vis-à-vis employees and will thus make working conditions more precarious and poorly paid. School and university students are being particularly vocal, feeling that this law will make it even more difficult than it already is for them to move past the endless cycle of barely-paid internships and CDD (fixed-term contracts, generally very short) and land a stable job.
The movement that crystallises the public’s general dissatisfaction with the way things are in France, however, is the Nuit Débout movement. Likened to the Occupy movement across the US and the Los Indignados movement in Spain, Nuit Débout is a gathering of people from all walks of life who want a space to express their discontent and to propose a new way of doing democracy. The movement has taken root across a number of France’s major cities, with the biggest gathering at the highly symbolic Place de la République in Paris. As this is a 10 minute walk from my place, I wandered across the square the other evening out of curiosity. I was particularly struck by the diversity of groups present – from a “ Free Palestine” group to a protesting group of taxi drivers. I was also impressed by the organisation of the moment; although it deliberately has no leader, there is a welcome booth in the centre of the square handing out information, and there are general assemblies every evening with a loudspeaker passed around to give everyone a few minutes to have their say.
Already faced with the terrorism and migrant challenges and hampered by historically low approval ratings, the French government also appears fed up, and has been resorting to increasingly brutal, authoritarian methods to assert itself. This has been evidenced through forceful evacuations of Nuit Debout protestors from the Place de la République, violent clashes during labour law protests and, recently, the sudden evacuation of immigrant squatters in an unused school in northeast Paris reminiscent of a similar style evacuation in Calais a few months ago. I find how events are unfolding worrying – the government and the general public are increasingly disconnected, mutual méfiance is growing and, running out of patience, the government is turning to force. The outcome of parliamentary debates of the labour law early this month will have an important impact upon whether tensions escalate or dissipate.
Desperate to restore its tarnished image and terrified that the events of 21 April 2002  will repeat themselves in the 2017 election, the Hollande government is unofficially on the campaign trail. On 25 April, the event bizarrely named “Hé Ho la Gauche!” (one wonders what the marketing department was thinking) brought together 24 of Hollande’s ministers to publically defend his achievements during his presidency and support his investiture in the 2017 election. Around the same time, the latest official release of unemployment statistics very conveniently showed a decline (Hollande has pinned his presidency to reversing the trend of rising unemployment) and an improvement in GDP growth.
Whether this will be enough to boost Hollande’s popularity remains to be seen - but I’m doubtful. I’ll be keeping my eye on Economy Minister and rising star Emmanuel Macron, who appears more clued-in than most, has a growing following and is highly ambitious but, coming from the private sector, doesn’t have the political support base of career-politicians. It’s going to continue to be an interesting year for French politics.
 Feeling of being fed up
 On 21 April 2002, the far right Front National party led by Jean-Marie Le Pen made it through to the second round of the Presidential election. Now led by M. Le Pen’s daughter Marine, the Front National has been enjoying increasing popularity across the country.