French President Emmanuel Macron faces no-confidence votes over hated pension reforms

French President Emmanuel Macron and protests over his rushed through unpopular pension reforms.
French President Emmanuel Macron and protests over his rushed through unpopular pension reforms. Photo credit: Reuters / Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron will face votes of no-confidence on Monday, after his decision to force through unpopular pension reforms sparked protests across the country and criticism from lawmakers.

Macron's government is likely to survive the motions, and he will remain president regardless of the result, although the anger against the reforms shows no sign of ending.

The French government triggered special constitutional powers on Thursday to push through the controversial legislation to raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64 for most workers.

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.

French President Emmanuel Macron faces votes of no confidence over his handling of controversial pension reforms.
French President Emmanuel Macron faces votes of no confidence over his handling of controversial pension reforms. Photo credit: Getty Images

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.

Protests and strikes rumble on

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.