France President Emmanuel Macron survives no-confidence votes, controversial pension reform to go ahead

Two no-confidence votes against French President Emmanuel Macron’s government have failed.
Two no-confidence votes against French President Emmanuel Macron’s government have failed. Photo credit: Getty Images

Two no-confidence votes against French President Emmanuel Macron's government have failed in the country's parliament, clearing the way for his hugely unpopular pension reforms to be implemented and sparking new protests in Paris.

The government triggered special constitutional powers last Thursday to push through controversial legislation that would raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64 for most workers. Lawmakers critical of the move called the no-confidence votes that were held on Monday.

The first motion was brought forward by the small parliamentary group "LIOT," which represents various small parties, and was seen as the most likely of the two to threaten the government. It received 278 votes -- just nine short of the 287 majority needed to pass.

The second vote -- tabled last week by far-right party National Rally -- drew less support, with only 94 lawmakers voting in favor.

The government's narrow survival will exacerbates the legitimacy crisis that Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne's cabinet and Macron's presidency are facing.

"The Prime Minister must resign, taking her reform with her," said Mathilde Panot, parliamentary leader of the communist party, following the vote.

The opposition is now looking to appeal to France's constitutional council, the highest constitutional body in the country, in order to block part or all of the law. The council would have up to a month to consider any objections to the legislation.

Meanwhile, popular anger against the reforms shows no sign of ending, with protestors gathering in central Paris following the votes and clashing with police.

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.

Over the weekend, with protesters gathering spontaneously in several cities to decry both the reform and the government's use of constitutional Article 49.3 to force the bill through the National Assembly without a vote -- a tactic seen by critics as undemocratic.

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 asked airlines to cancel 20% of their flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Air France warned of flight cancellations in the upcoming days.

Oil refineries and storage facilities were 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 littering the streets of Paris as trash collectors have been on strike for the past two weeks.

Unions have called for nationwide strikes and protests this Thursday, hoping to bring the country to a standstill.

At their height two weeks ago, street protests gathered 1.28 million people across the country, according to the French Interior Ministry.