Vote of no-confidence against Macron on despised pension measures

French President Emmanuel Macron

After forcing through controversial pension reforms, French President Emmanuel Macron will face votes of no-confidence on Monday, drawing outrage from parliamentarians and nationwide protests.

Whatever of the outcome, Macron’s government is expected to survive the motions, and he will continue to serve as president. Yet, the backlash against the reforms doesn’t appear to be abating.

The contentious law to raise the retirement age for the majority of workers from 62 to 64 was forced through by the French government on Thursday by using special constitutional powers.

On Friday, French lawmakers filed two motions of no-confidence against the Prime Minister – one from a grouping of small parties, and one from National Rally, a far-right party.

In order to be successful, the majority of sitting lawmakers – 287 of them – would need to vote in favor.

If successful, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne would have to resign and the pension reform legislation would be rejected. This would leave French President Emmanuel Macron with the option to either replace the prime minister or dissolve the parliament.

The move to oust Macron’s government is believed to be unlikely to succeed, however, since the pension reforms also have the support of the Republican party, making it harder for the rest of the opposition parties to get the absolute majority needed.

“There will be no majority for these votes of no confidence. Responsibly, we do not want to add chaos to chaos and let our country sink into disorder,” the leader of the Republican group Eric Ciotti tweeted.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also downplayed suggestions that the vote might be successful.

“There will be no majority to bring the government down, but it will be a moment of truth,” Le Maire told local news outlet Le Parisien.

“I understand our countrymen’s fears and anxieties, but we will definitely not improve things by denying economic reality,” he added.

With one of the lowest retirement ages in the industrialized world, France also spends more than most other countries on pensions at nearly 14% of economic output, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation.

The government argues that the current system – relying on the working population to pay for a growing age group of retirees – is no longer fit for purpose.

Yet the protests took aim not only at the pension reform, but the constitutional power used to force it through.

Unable to gain majority support for the bill in parliament, Macron resorted to using Article 49.3, which enabled his government to pass the bill through the National Assembly without a vote.

The move has been widely condemned by protesters and lawmakers as undemocratic.

“We are facing a president who makes use of a permanent coup d’état,” Olivier Faure, leader of the French Socialist Party, told local media Thursday.

Over the weekend, protesters gathered spontaneously in several cities, sometimes clashing with the police.

There were 169 people detained during protests across France on Saturday, according to the Interior Ministry.

In addition, workers in various sectors have been taking industrial action to protest the move.

Authorities in charge of civil air traffic have asked airlines to cancel 20% of their flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Air France has warned of flight cancellations in the upcoming days.

Oil refineries and storage facilities are also impacted, with 39% of TotalEnergie workers on strike Monday, according to a statement from the company, and more than 10,000 tons of garbage are littering the streets of Paris as trash collectors have been on strike for the past two weeks.

And the situation could worsen as unions have called for nationwide strikes and protests this Thursday, hoping to bring the country to a standstill.


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