French Deputies of NUPES coalition (New Ecological and Social Union) show posters reading 'No to 64 years old' at the National Assembly in Paris, France, 16 March 2023. EFE/EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

French gov’t pushes through unpopular pension reforms without parliament vote

Paris, Mar 16 (EFE).- The French government on Thursday used special constitutional powers to push through controversial pension reforms, avoiding a vote in parliament.

One of the most contentious issues in the reforms is an increase in the minimum retirement age, from 62 to 64.

Prime minister Élisabeth Borne said the government could “not run the risk of gambling the future of our pensions” and would resort “out of responsibility” to using Article 49.3 of the Constitution, insisting that the “reform is necessary.”

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the National Roundtable on Diplomacy at the foreign ministry in Paris, France 16 March 2023. EFE/EPA/Michel Euler/POOL MAXPPP OUT

Borne was initially drowned out by left-wing deputies loudly singing La Marseillaise, who also chanted “resignation, resignation.”

The government, led by president Emmanuel Macron, decided to bypass parliament minutes before the vote was due to take place.

The bill had already been approved by the Senate, but cabinet ministers feared they might not have enough votes in the lower house of parliament for the bill to pass.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech at the National Assembly in Paris, France, 16 March 2023. EFE/EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

The move opens the door to a possible political crisis, with opposition parties – both on the left and right – calling for Borne’s resignation and an imminent no confidence vote.

“Borne cannot go on,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen said, adding that “a majority of French people” were opposed to the government’s reforms.

Police officers secure the access to the National Assembly as Labour Unions members demonstrate against the pensions system reform in Paris, France, 16 March 2023. EFE/EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Le Pen said a “deep political crisis” had been triggered by the decision, which she said exposes the government’s “weakness.”

The left is also preparing to table a no confidence motion, the Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel said, urging protesters to continue mobilizing.

French members of parliament of the left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI) demonstrate outside French Parliament (National Assembly) in Paris, France, 16 March 2023. EFE/EPA/YOAN VALAT

Thousands of protesters were gathering on the Place de la Concorde in central Paris on Thursday afternoon to denounce the government’s reform.

Since the proposals were unveiled in January, France has seen several rounds of nationwide strikes and rallies denouncing the pension reforms. EFE