After Macron pushes through pension bill, lawmakers vow no-confidence vote
By Roger Cohen and Aurelien Breeden
President Emmanuel Macron pushed through legislation to raise the retirement age for most workers to 64 from 62 without a vote of lawmakers in the National Assembly on Thursday, a decision that inflamed an already tense confrontation over the measure in France and set the stage for a no-confidence vote against his government.
Macron’s decision prompted raucous protests inside the assembly chamber, where opposition lawmakers sang the French national anthem and banged on their desks. On the streets, protesters pledged to continue their fight against Macron’s proposal.
The upper house of Parliament, the Senate, approved the bill on Thursday morning. But in the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house, Macron’s party and its allies hold only a slim majority, and did not have enough votes to pass the bill.
A no-confidence vote in the National Assembly is expected to take place within days, most likely on Monday. If it succeeds, it would bring down Macron’s prime minister and the Cabinet, and the pension bill would be rejected. But that is unlikely.
Here is what to know:
— The decision to use Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, which enables a government to push a bill through the National Assembly without a vote, gives opposition lawmakers 24 hours to file a no-confidence motion against the government, although it is rare for such motions to succeed. The article has been enshrined in law since 1958, but over the past decade it has increasingly been seen as an undemocratic tool used by governments to strong-arm lawmakers.
— Macron says France’s pension system is in “an increasingly precarious state” because retirees are living longer and their numbers are growing faster than those of today’s workers, whose payroll taxes finance the system. But his plan has angered a society that reveres retirement and a generous balance between work and leisure. In polls, roughly two-thirds of French people say they disapprove of the plan.
— Eight large-scale national protests in two months have convulsed France, and a strike by garbage workers has left trash piled neck-high in Paris and other cities.
— For Macron, who has spent much of his time since reelection last year focused on diplomatic issues like the war in Ukraine, the pensions issue could be central to his domestic legacy. He cannot run again in 2027, as France’s constitution limits presidents to two consecutive five-year terms.