InsiderBusinessAnger as French government triggers procedure to adopt controversial pension bill without...

Anger as French government triggers procedure to adopt controversial pension bill without vote

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used a special procedure to push an unpopular pensions bill through the National Assembly without a vote on Thursday, amid shouts from left-wing lawmakers brandishing placards against the reform.

The move, using the so-called article 49:3 of the constitution, will ensure the bill raising the retirement age by two years to 64 is adopted after weeks of protests and fractious debate.

But it also shows President Emmanuel Macron and his government failed to garner enough of a majority in parliament, in a blow to the centrist president and his ability to win support from other parties for further reforms.

Borne was greeted by boos as she arrived in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, to announce the special procedure on Thursday.

The session was suspended for two minutes after left-wing lawmakers singing the national anthem prevented Borne from speaking. Some held placards reading “No to 64 years”.

When the session resumed, Borne took the floor but her speech was largely drowned out by boos and chants from opposition members of parliament and shouts of “resignation,” in rare chaotic scenes in the French parliament.

“We cannot gamble on the future of our pensions, this reform is necessary,” Borne told lawmakers, to explain why she was using the 49:3 procedure. Macron and his government say raising the retirement age is necessary to get the pension system out of the red by the end of the decade.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Borne should resign. “This last-minute resort to 49:3 is an extraordinary sign of weakness,” she said, adding: “She must go.”

The Senate, upper house, had given the green light to the bill in the morning, as expected, thanks to support from senators from the conservative Les Republicains (LR).

But the afternoon vote in the National Assembly would have been a different matter. There, LR lawmakers were split on the issue.

According to a source present at a last-minute meeting at the Elysee, Macron told Borne and others he had wanted to go for a vote.

“But I consider that the financial, economic risks (of the bill being voted down) are too big,” he said, adding that was why he backed the move to skip the vote.


Resorting to the measure is likely to further enrage unions, protesters and left-wing opposition parties that say the pension overhaul is unfair and unnecessary.

“This government is not worthy of our Fifth Republic, of French democracy,” Fabien Roussel, head of the French Communist Party said.

Socialist Party head Olivier Faure told Reuters earlier on Thursday that such a move could unleash “an uncontrollable anger” after weeks of rolling strikes and protests.

Le Pen’s National Rally and the left-wing France Insoumise (France Unbowed) said they would request a vote of no confidence in the government. However that is unlikely to pass as most conservative lawmakers would likely not back it.

“By resorting to 49:3, the government demonstrates that it does not have a majority to approve the two-year postponement of the legal retirement age,” Laurent Berger, the leader of CFDT, France’s main union, said on Twitter, urging authorities to “listen to the workers.”


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