French government narrowly survives no-confidence vote

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to attend the National Roundtable on Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry in Paris on March 16, 2023.

Michel Euler | Afp | Getty Images

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron narrowly survived a no-confidence vote Monday evening, as furious opposition lawmakers contested his decision to force changes to the pension system through parliament without a poll.

The vote of no-confidence against the government was rejected by just nine votes (278 voted in favor, more than expected). Two no-confidence motions had been filed — one by a coalition of centrist and left-wing parties, and a second by the far-right National Rally. The latter now has no chance of going through.

Analysts had already told CNBC on Friday that Macron’s opponents were unlikely to reach the required 287 out of 577 votes.

The vote could have led to the resignation of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who announced the government’s intention to use the special constitutional measure to pass the long-standing plan to raise the retirement age.

As the no-confidence vote has failed, the bill will now likely go through and lift the retirement age of most workers from 62 to 64 by 2030.

Members of parliament of the left hold placards and sing the Marseillaise, French national anthem, as French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne arrives to deliver a speech on pensions reform bill at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 16, 2023. 

Pascal Rossignol | Reuters

A poll published by Elabe on Monday found that 68% of respondents wanted the no-confidence vote to pass, 68% thought that Borne should resign if the motion fails and 69% believed that using the constitutional measure, called Article 49-3, was a denial of democracy.

Opponents say that the changes will negatively impact womenpublic sector workers and people on lower pay. They also argue that the government is prioritizing businesses and people who are highly paid over average laborers.

Workers have been carrying out industrial action since the start of the year, with such moves ramping up in March.

Every pension reform in history of the country has been unpopular, French MP says

Refineries around the country have been been on rolling strikes for 13 days, while industrial action by garbage collectors has led to trash piles building up around Paris.

Transport workers and teachers have also held strikes. Unions have vowed to continue action and called for widespread strikes on Thursday. Hundreds of people have been detained, as thousands have marched in protest around the country.

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