French Macron will face votes of no confidence over pension adjustment

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron faced a second straight day of violent protests as opposition lawmakers called a no-confidence vote early next week aimed at bringing down his government and killing his pension reform in France.

A group of centrist lawmakers opposed to Macron introduced a motion of no confidence on Friday with the support of no less than 58 members of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The far-right National Rally party also put forward a motion of no confidence in the government on Friday.

The moves came less than 24 hours after Macron’s government invoked special constitutional powers to pass an increase in France’s retirement age without the approval of 577 members of the National Assembly.

Police clashed late Friday again with protesters on the Place de la Concorde, firing tear gas to disperse crowds, after arresting more than 300 people the day before when rioters set cars on fire and blocked roads.

Hundreds of protesters temporarily blocked the ring road in Paris, while a few dozen poured onto the tracks at the main railway station in Bordeaux, in southwestern France. Several thousand protesters took to the streets in Rennes, a city in western France. Trade unions are calling for new demonstrations across the country on March 23.

The motion of no confidence led by the centrist group was endorsed by NUPES – a left-wing coalition of socialists, communists and greens. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said that NUPES decided on Friday to vote for the centrists’ proposal rather than advance its own to boost its chances of success.

Whether the centre-left coalition will get enough votes in the National Assembly to topple Mr Macron’s government depends on other lawmakers who support the measure.

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Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Assembly’s largest opposition party, Marine Le Pen, said her party would vote on any vote of no confidence against Macron’s government.

The survival of Macron’s government is likely to hinge on the Party of the Republic, France’s conservative party. Les Républicains lawmakers enjoy the balance of power in the deeply divided National Assembly chamber.

The leader of the Republic Party, Eric Ciotti, is in favor of raising the retirement age and has said he will not support the motion of no confidence. However, a group of dissident members within the party oppose Mr Macron’s plan, and it remains unclear how many of them will vote for the proposals. At least 27 of the 61 lower house of the republic sitting in the National Assembly would need to vote against the government to force it to resign.

Macron’s pro-business Ennahda party has 170 seats in the National Assembly, part of a larger coalition of centre-right parties with a total of 250 seats.

Ms. Le Pen sought to increase pressure on the conservatives, saying a refusal to support a no-confidence vote would signal their support for the pension bill, which is deeply unpopular with the French and has sparked nearly two months of nationwide protests.

“All the legislators of the Republic who will not vote for oversight will in fact allow the passage of the pension reform,” Ms. Le Pen wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Photo: Reuters/Stephan Mahe

Macron’s push to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 is a cornerstone of his plan to overhaul the country’s pension system.

Reform was one of the main pillars of Macron’s re-election campaign last year. He said this was the only way to maintain France’s pension system without raising taxes or increasing the country’s debt.

Labor Minister Olivier Dusopt said in September that if the vote of no confidence was successful, Macron would dissolve the National Assembly, triggering new parliamentary elections. This has wounded the ranks of Republicans, who are in the midst of an identity crisis.

Asked by reporters on Thursday if he would vote for the centrist group’s no-confidence motion, lawmaker Aurelien Pradey said, “I don’t rule it out.”

Write to Noemie Bisserbe at [email protected] and Matthew Dalton at [email protected]

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