French President Emmanuel Macron has imposed a highly unpopular bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron used a special constitutional power; Article 49:3 to do so.
The decision to invoke the special power was made during a Cabinet meeting at the Elysee presidential palace, just a few minutes before the scheduled vote, because Macron had no guarantee of a majority in France’s lower house of parliament.
Lawmakers shouted, their voices shook with emotion as Macron made the risky move, which is expected to trigger quick motions of no-confidence in his government.
As Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tried to formally announce the decision at the National Assembly, leftist members broke into the French national anthem, delaying her speech. The speaker had to briefly suspend the session to restore order.
“Today, there’s uncertainty” about whether a majority would have voted for the bill “by just a few votes,” Borne explained.
“We cannot take the risk to see 175 hours of parliamentary debate collapse … We cannot gamble on the future of our pensions. That reform is necessary,” she added.
Borne said that her government is accountable to the parliament, prompting boos from the ranks of the opposition.
“In a few days, I have no doubts … there will be one or several no-confidence motions. There will actually be a proper vote and therefore the parliamentary democracy will have the last say.” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne
The proposed pension changes have prompted major strikes and protests across the country since January. Macron, who made it the flagship of his second term, argued the reform is needed to keep the pension system from diving into deficit as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens.
Lawmakers Unhappy With Macron’s Decision
One by one, opposition lawmakers emerged from the Assembly demanding the government to step down. One Communist lawmaker called the presidential power a political “guillotine.” Others called it a “denial of democracy” that signals Macron’s lack of legitimacy. One union leader called it “institutional violence” and called for more strikes and protests.
Marine Le Pen said her far-right National Rally party would file a no-confidence motion, and Communist lawmaker Fabien Roussel said such a motion is “ready” on the left.
“The mobilization will continue,” Roussel said. “This reform must be suspended.”
To be adopted, a no-confidence motion needs to be approved by at least half the seats at the lower house — that is 287 now. In such case, which would be a first since 1962, the government would have to resign.
If no-confidence motions don’t succeed, the pension bill would be considered adopted.
Earlier Thursday, the Senate adopted the bill in a 193-114 vote, a tally that was largely expected since the conservative majority of the upper house of parliament favors raising the retirement age.
Macron’s alliance lost its parliamentary majority last year, forcing the government to count on conservative lawmakers to pass the bill. Leftists and far-right lawmakers are strongly opposed and conservatives are divided, which made the outcome unpredictable.
The French leader wants to raise the retirement age so workers put more money into the system, which the government says is on course to run a deficit.
Hundreds Gather In Paris To Protest Against The Bill
Across the river Seine from the National Assembly, hundreds joined an unannounced rally at the Place de la Concorde, where security forces, backed by a water cannon, were on alert.
Leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told the crowd that Macron has gone “over the heads of the will of the people.”
Union leaders reacted with fury and a determination to stage even more strikes. Francois Hommeril of the CFE-CGC, representing energy workers among others, said the government “forces a vote when it is sure to win it” and “prevents the vote when they know they would lose.”
Leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon was one of the first to speak out against President Macron’s bid to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 by invoking Article 49:3.
But Mélenchon’s stance is no surprise, as during last year’s presidential campaign his Nupes alliance (comprising far-left, left and green parties) pledged to lower the retirement age to 60.
He said the bill “had no legitimacy” and described Macron’s decision to call on Article 49:3 a “spectacular failure”.
READ ALSO: Dr. Afriyie Akoto Bangs Mahama Over Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Under NDC Gov’t
Leave a Reply