On Monday, the French government survived two votes of no-confidence triggered by President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to use special constitutional powers to force through a controversial pensions reform bill last week.
The first vote, which was brought about by centrist MPs and supported by some left-wing parties, gained 278 votes from French MPs, falling just short of the 287 votes that were needed. A second vote of no-confidence tabled by the right-wing Rassemblement National (National Rally) party failed by a wider margin and only gathered 94 votes.
Although the French government was able to weather the storm, the pension plans remain controversial. In addition to rousing political passions in the National Assembly, the proposal to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 angered sections of the electorate, who took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate.
Macron’s government survives no-confidence votes
Both motions of no-confidence were voted on in the lower chamber of parliament. The political stakes were high. If either vote had been successful, Macron would have had to either call a vote or form a new government.
The first motion was filed by a small centrist group and supported by a coalition of left-wing parties including the Green Party and the Socialist Party. It fell short by just nine votes.
The second motion was tabled by Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally party. It also failed to pass and gathered much less support.
As it stands, Macron’s controversial pension reforms are set to become law.
Pension reform controversy
A political furore has been growing over the decision of the French President’s party, Renaissance, to use constitutional powers to bypass a vote on his pension reforms.
Last week, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne used constitutional article 49:3 to force the bill through without a vote, thus triggering the current political débacle.
Macron’s argument is that France’s aging population has made the current pension scheme unaffordable. However, the French government’s proposed solutions for the issue have been opposed by politicians from either end of the political spectrum, on both left and right.
Sections of the French public also oppose the bill. On Saturday, thousands of people across the country took to the streets to protest against the pension reforms.
That same day, the French police banned public gatherings at Place de la Concorde and its surrounding areas, as well as in the vicinity of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, where demonstrators in Paris had gathered in the highest numbers.
About 300 people were arrested on Saturday during the demonstrations.
However, protests are set to continue. Various unions have already called for renewed demonstrations against Macron’s pension reforms to take place on Thursday. Workers from several sectors including health, sanitation, transport, and energy have gone on strike, causing further difficulties for the French government.
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