Macron forces plan to raise retirement age through French parliament without vote

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President Emmanuel Macron’s government has used special constitutional powers to force an unpopular pensions bill through France’s parliament without a vote, chanting “Resign!” in chaotic scenes.

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The move will ensure a bill to raise the retirement age by two years to 64 – which the government says is essential to ensure the pension system does not fail – is adopted after weeks of protests and fractious debate.

But it also showed that Macron and his government failed to win a majority in parliament, a blow to the centrist president and his ability to garner support from other parties for further reforms.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne was greeted with cheers and jeers as she arrived at the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, to announce she would invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution to skip the vote on reform measures.

The session was adjourned for two minutes after Ms Born was prevented from speaking by left-wing legislators who were singing the national anthem. Some were holding placards that read ‘Not 64 years’.

When the session resumed, Ms Born took the stage but her speech was largely drowned out by the same slurs and chants.

“We cannot gamble the future of our pensions, this reform is essential,” Ms Bourne said, to explain why she was using the 49.3 process.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Ms Born should resign. “This last-minute resort to 49.3 is an extraordinary sign of weakness,” she said, “he must go.”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left France Insomise (France Unbowed), called the move “a spectacular failure”.

“This bill has no parliamentary validity, no street validity,” he said at a protest rally outside Parliament.

The bill was cleared in the morning by the Senate, the upper house as expected, thanks to the support of senators from the conservative Les République (LR).

But the afternoon vote in the National Assembly was expected to be a different matter. At the same time, LR MLAs were divided on this issue. Mr Macron told Ms Born and others he wanted to go to the vote, according to a source present at the last-minute meeting at the Elysee. “But I agree that the financial and economic risks (of voting for the bill) are too high,” he said.

Opinion polls show a majority of voters oppose pension reform, as do trade unions, who say there are other ways to balance the accounts, including taxing the wealthy more.

Resorting to the measure is likely to further anger unions, protesters and left-wing opposition parties, who say the pensions overhaul is unfair and unnecessary.

Socialist party chief Olivier Faure told Reuters earlier on Thursday that such a move could spark “uncontrollable anger” after rolling strikes and protests that have affected electricity production, halted some shipments from refineries and forced Paris Heaps of garbage have been seen on the streets.

“We are as determined as ever,” CGT unionist Christophe Joanneau said at a refinery on strike in the western French town of Donges. “Starting next week, we’ll take things up a gear.”

Opposition parties said they would request a motion of no confidence in the government, which would be voted on in the coming days, possibly on Monday. It is unlikely to pass as most Conservative MPs would not be expected to support it – unless a surprise coalition of MPs from all sides is formed, from the far-right to the left and including the Conservatives.

The government initially said the reform would allow the system to break even by 2030. It says the accounts will still be balanced in that time frame, with additional income compensation measures agreed by Macron’s camp to try to get the LR’s support, including softeners for those . Those who started working early and top-up for some working moms.


Macron forces plan to raise retirement age through French parliament without vote

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