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Protests Rage Across France as Government Narrowly Survives No-Confidence Vote

The French government had a narrow escape on Monday as the no-confidence motion filed by the opposition fell short of just nine votes in the National Assembly. Trade unions and leftist parties are gearing up for more protests against the unpopular pension reforms
Protest inside the French National Assembly. (Photo: via l’ Humanite)

Protest inside the French National Assembly. (Photo: via l’ Humanite)

Protests and blockades continue across France denouncing the unpopular pension reforms forcefully pushed through the National Assembly by the government led by Emmanuel Macron. At multiple places, police resorted to the use of force to break through the blockades. Police also used tear gas to disperse protesters and made arrests in several cities. 

Spontaneous protests erupted across France as the government’s controversial pension reforms were passed on March 16 after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked the emergency provision Article 49.3 of the constitution to bypass voting in the Assembly. 

On March 20, the government survived a vote of no-confidence tabled by opposition groups in the National Assembly. The motion failed after falling short of just nine votes. 

The pension reforms, proposed by the government on January 10, will increase the retirement age in the country from 62 to 64, and stipulate a mandatory 43 years of service before workers are entitled to full pension and benefits. Trade unions and pro-worker political parties have outrightly rejected the reforms, instead calling to increase wages and pensions and reduce the retirement age to 60.

A coalition of trade unions and left-wing parties, including the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) coalition, has now called for major mobilizations on March 23. This would be the ninth nationwide day of strikes and protests against the reforms since January 19.

The General Confederation of Labor (CGT) stated on March 20 that the reforms was passed “against public opinion, against the unions, and without a vote. Adopted by force, the pension reform is rejected by 95% of workers. In the aftermath of [Article] 49.3, 65% of citizens want the movement to continue. The inter-union petition collected more than a million signatures with popular support.” 

“The struggle continues, we need citizen consultation,” added CGT.

On March 21, Cyprien Caddeo wrote in L’Humanite, “even though the cross-party motion of no confidence failed by nine votes, the executive emerges very weakened, while the fight against reform continues.” 

The no-confidence motion tabled by independent legislators on Monday was backed by  278 MPs, falling nine votes short of the 286 votes required. MPs from NUPES, as well as reportedly over a dozen MPs from The Republicans (LR)—a party which supports the government, voted for the motion. A second no-confidence motion filed by the far-right National Rally (RN) received only 94 votes in favor.

French Communist Party (PCF) leader and MP Fabien Roussel stated on March 20, “in the face of the chaos caused by the President of the Republic and his government, we must respond with our unity, our determination to have this reform withdrawn, and this in respect for democracy. In the face of the presidential monarchy that is breaking our country, in the face of the threat of dissolution of the National Assembly, I call first of all for the withdrawal of this reform, the only demand of our citizens today.”

Left-wing party La France Insoumise (LFI) has stated that “the mobilization against the reform continues until Macron, Borne and the government back down.”

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