France's leaders fight 2 no-confidence motions as the pension backlash rages on
Updated March 20, 2023 at 10:10 AM ET
PARIS — France's government is facing a critical, maybe fatal, moment Monday with no-confidence motions filed by lawmakers who are furious that President Emmanuel Macron ordered the use of special constitutional powers to force through an unpopular bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without giving them a vote.
National Assembly lawmakers are set to vote in the afternoon on two no-confidence motions, one from the far-right National Rally and the other, more threatening one from a small group that has gathered support across the left.
The Senate, dominated by conservatives who back the retirement plan, passed the legislation last week.
The no-confidence motions each need the backing of 287 lawmakers in the National Assembly, the lower chamber, to pass.
Although the motions appear unlikely to succeed, the climate of protest that Macron's pension reforms has sparked in parliament and on the streets means the outcome of voting in the National Assembly is not guaranteed. No such motion has succeeded since 1962.
Macron's centrist alliance still has the most seats in the National Assembly. A minority of lawmakers from the Republicans party could stray from the party line, but it remains to be seen whether they're willing to bring down Macron's government.
The tensions in the political arena are echoed on the streets, marked by intermittent protests and strikes in various sectors, from transport to energy and sanitation workers. Garbage in Paris is piling ever higher and reeking of rotting food on the 15th day of a strike by collectors. The three main incinerators serving the French capital have been mostly blocked, just like a garbage sorting center northwest of Paris.
"The goal is to support the workers on strike in Paris ... to put pressure on this government that wants to pass this unjust, brutal and useless and ineffective law," said Kamel Brahmi, of the leftist CGT union, speaking to workers with a bullhorn at the Romainville sorting plant.
Some refineries that supply gas stations also are at least partially blocked, and Transport Minister Clement Beaune said on France-Info radio Monday that he would take action if necessary to ensure that fuel still gets out.
Unions, demanding that the government simply withdraw the retirement bill, have called for new nationwide protests on Thursday.
If the no-confidence votes fail, the bill becomes law. If a majority agrees, it would spell the end of the retirement reform plan and force the government to resign. A new Cabinet would be appointed. Macron could retain Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne should he choose; no other name has been floated.
Borne has taken the brunt of the opposition's fury and will have to defend herself Monday before lawmakers.
Should the no-confidence motion pass, it would be a big blow to Macron, likely weighing on the remainder of his second term, which ends in 2027.
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