Emmanuel Macron’s government survived a vote of confidence over the pension reform
Emmanuel Macron’s government survived two confidence votes by opposition lawmakers on Monday and moved a step closer to enacting an unpopular pension reform after it overrode parliament.
The motion of no confidence submitted by a small group called Liot was supported by 278 representatives in the Parliament, with only 9 votes remaining, which is an unexpectedly close result. A separate letter submitted by Marine Le Pen’s National Assembly party received only 94 votes, as other opposition parties remain wary of teaming up with the far-right party.
The no-confidence motions are the result of Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne triggering Article 49.3 of the French constitution last week and passing the bill without a parliamentary vote. Now that the motions have failed, the pension reform raising the retirement age by two years to 64 is acceptable and the Borne government will remain in place.
Shortly after the vote, small groups of protesters gathered around parliament and clashed with police.
Unions have vowed to keep up the pressure by stepping up strikes in vital sectors such as waste collection, energy and transport and have called for nationwide protests on Thursday. On Monday, about 8 percent of gas stations across the country lacked at least one fuel due to the strikes taking place at gasoline refineries. The situation was even worse in the Bouches-du-Rhône region, where half was affected and rationing began.
The opposition parties are also planning an appeal to the Constitutional Court in order to invalidate the law due to procedural reasons, and the left is also trying to annul it in a public referendum.
“Nothing is resolved, we will continue to do everything we can to undo this reform,” said Mathilde Panot, leader of the far-left France Unbowed group in the National Assembly.
Although he survived confidence votes, Macron’s ability to legislate to achieve his goals for his second term, such as achieving full employment or combating climate change, appears to be seriously compromised. After losing his majority in last June’s parliamentary elections, the president hoped to form an ad hoc coalition with the left and the right on every draft law, but the limits of this approach became clear in relation to the pension reform.
The president has been negotiating with advisers and political allies on how to get out of the pension reform crisis and may address the public this week. One option to consider would be a government reshuffle that would replace the prime minister.
The anger was visible in the streets even before the polls. Police arrested hundreds of people who demonstrated from Paris to Rennes to express their displeasure at Macron’s tactics. While Clause 49.3 has been used by governments of all stripes since its creation in 1958, applying it to the pensions law, which is opposed by roughly two-thirds of the population, risks radicalizing street protests.
Borne defended the use of clause 49.3, saying it was “not the invention of some dictator, but a profoundly democratic decision by General de Gaulle, approved by the French public”, referring to the fact that the 1958 constitution containing it was approved by referendum . .
Laurent Berger, head of the more moderate CFDT trade union, called on Macron to reason. “The country has gone from a crisis in the streets to a crisis of democracy,” he told Libération. “The president should simply withdraw this reform.”
On rare occasions, previous French governments have backed away from legislation when faced with strong opposition, such as in 2006 when it overruled lawmakers to pass clause 49.3, a less protective employment contract for young people, but soon relented. after.
Macron has argued that pension reform is needed as the population ages, as the system relies on active workers to fund the care of current retirees.
Opponents of his reforms argue that there are better ways to shore up the system, such as raising taxes or asking wealthy retirees to contribute, that would not fall so unfairly on blue-collar workers, some of whom do physically demanding jobs.
France spends about 13 percent of its national output on pension benefits, higher than the EU average of 10.3 percent, largely because the system pays generous benefits that replace more workers’ wages than elsewhere. The country also struggles to keep the elderly in work, so the average effective age of men is 60.4 years, compared to 62.6 in the EU and 63.8 in the OECD.
Without reform, the government expects the pension deficit to rise to 13.5 billion euros in 2030. With this, the government expects savings of 10.3 billion euros by 2027 and 17.7 billion euros by 2030.