Macron narrowly won a no-confidence vote as protestors shut down France

French president Emmanuel Macron narrowly survived a no-confidence vote on Monday (March 20) in the National Assembly, less than a week after his government forced through an unpopular pension reform bill that raised the French retirement age from 62 to 64.Read more……

French president Emmanuel Macron narrowly survived a no-confidence vote on Monday (March 20) in the National Assembly, less than a week after his government forced through an unpopular pension reform bill that raised the French retirement age from 62 to 64.

Protests and labor strikes have engulfed France in recent weeks, with major figures on both the left and right criticizing Macron’s decision to push through the pension reform by invoking Article 49.3, a controversial part of the French constitution that allows the government to pass legislation without a parliamentary vote.

However, Article 49.3 also allowed lawmakers to table a no-confidence vote immediately afterward, setting up the current political crisis for Macron.

Advertisement

While the current government has seen several unsuccessful no-confidence votes since Macron’s Renaissance party lost its majority in parliament last year, this motion was the first to have broad bipartisan support on the opposition ranks, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen announcing her support for the motion, originally called by the left-wing Nupes coalition.

Still, as expected, the unlikely alliance was unable to find enough support from the conservative Les RĂ©publicains party, which was founded in 2015 by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. It sided with Macron, deciding the vote.

Advertisement

Éric Ciotti, the leader of the party, had instructed his MPs to vote against the motion, citing the potential for further disruptions, citing the protests held in the past few days opposing the reform.

“They want through violence to put pressure on my vote…I will never yield to the new disciples of the Terror,” Ciotti said, after his constituency office in Nice was destroyed by protestors over the weekend, referring to the period of French history, following the 1789 revolution, in which those perceived to be opposing the new regime were arrested or executed.

Advertisement

Still, 20 Les RĂ©publicains, or about one-third of the members, voted against Macron, a larger number than expected.

Despite Macron’s victory in parliament, a nationwide day of strikes and protests has been planned for Thursday (March 23) by a coalition of left-wing labor groups that are likely to continue to exert pressure on his administration.

Advertisement

A timeline of the French pension crisis

January 10: The government announces plans to move forward with its plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, saying it is a necessary step to adequately fund the pension system.

January 23: The official proposal is submitted to Macron’s cabinet, the last step before it can be sent to parliament.

Advertisement

January 31: A million protestors take to the streets to voice their opposition to the pension reforms in a demonstration mostly organized by the country’s labor groups. It is among the first major protests opposing the proposed bill.

February 18: The pension plan moves to the French senate after tense debate in the lower houses of parliament.

Advertisement

March 16: Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announces that the government would trigger Article 49.3 to force the legislation through parliament, in order to prevent any possibility of the bill being defeated.

March 20: Macron faces two votes of no confidence, called by both the far-left and the far-right, as protests and stikes rage throughout France.

Advertisement

Why did Macron raise the retirement age?

Part of his initial presidential campaign’s platform, Macron sees the reform bill as necessary to ensure the financial health of the country’s pension system, especially considering France’s aging population. The number of French people over 85 years old is expected to rise by 90% between 2030 and 2050. The bill would also be a signature achievement for Macron’s centrist political strategy.

Opposition figures like Philippe Martinez, the head of France’s oldest labor union, have accused Macron of throwing blue-collar workers under the bus. Martinez has called for the retirement age to be lowered to 60, funded by higher taxes on corporations and the rich.

Advertisement

Macron tried to overhaul the pension plan with a bill in 2019, prompting massive demonstrations and one of the largest transit strikes in French history. The plan was postponed by the covid-19 pandemic.

France has among the most generous retirement benefits in the world, including one of the lowest retirement ages–in most other EU Countries, it is 65 or higher, and it is 67 in the US. In 2010, the French government raised the retirement age from 60 to 62, leading to similar protests and strikes.

Advertisement

The French pension crisis, by the numbers

28%: Approval rating for Macron, the lowest since the massive yellow vest protests in 2019

58%: Share of French citizens who disagree with the method Macron used to pass the bill, regardless of their perspective on the policy

Advertisement

$13 billion: The estimate for the annual pensions deficit in 2027 without raising the retirement age, according to labor minister Olivier Dussopt

7,000: Tons of garbage left sitting on the streets of Paris as trash collectors went on strike to protest the bill

Advertisement

43: Years of work needed to access a full pension, meaning the retirement age could be higher for workers with gaps in employment, like mothers or those living with a disability

100: The number of people arrested during a violent demonstration on Saturday

Related stories:

🇫🇷 Workers in France are organizing a new wave of strikes against the pension reform

Advertisement

🗑️ Macron could be in trouble for hiring McKinsey to help run France

đź“ť In an open letter, Emmanuel Macron asks every French citizen to answer 20 big questions

Live Updates for COVID-19 CASES