Protesters take part in an indication against French government’s plan to lift the legal retirement age in Paris, on March 16, 2023.
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A coalition of French lawmakers on Friday filed a no confidence motion against President Emmanuel Macron following chaotic scenes within the country’s lower house of parliament the day before.
Despite frantic last-minute negotiations and number-crunching, Macron calculated he didn’t have enough votes within the National Assembly to pass his controversial and long-standing plan to lift the retirement age.
So he resorted to the back-up plan that many — including inside his party — opposed; using a special constitutional power to force it through with no parliamentary majority.
The measure, which suggests the national retirement age will go from 62 to 64 for many employees, was announced by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who was met with chants, jeers and boos from lawmakers.
The response was fierce. Union CFDT called it a “true denial of democracy” and called on local unions to rally over the weekend, and for a giant day of strikes and protest motion on March 23.
Around 7,000 people gathered to protest on the Place de la Concorde in Paris on Thursday evening, Reuters reported, where police used tear gas and charged at protesters.
A coalition of left-wing lawmakers filed one no confidence motion, which is being backed by leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon. One other has been filed by the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen, now led by Jordan Bardella, which has said it’ll vote in favor of any no-confidence motion.
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 on the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 16, 2023.
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Macron, Borne and their Renaissance party, formerly En Marche, are expected to make it through the vote.
Julien Hoez, a political consultant who has worked with the Renaissance party, says the motion of no confidence will struggle to get the required majority of 287 votes. That is with Mélenchon’s left-wing La France Insoumise, Le Pen’s National Rally, green party Europe Ecology, and others against Macron’s bill — potentially also including members of the center-right establishment party Les Républicains. Hoez noted it’ll be tight, and it’s possible Borne could step down.
The strength of feeling against the deployment of the special constitutional measure shouldn’t be underestimated, he told CNBC by phone.
“With the budget it was comprehensible and acceptable because you would like the budget to maintain the country running, it made it a better pill to swallow,” Hoez said.
“Something as essential as this needed to be done in a different way to be able to make things work. People think that is undemocratic.”
A protester sits on top of a lamp post with a placard that reads “Macron on the service of Black Rock, Black Block on the service of the people” as demonstrators light fires at Place de la Concorde in protest to the French Government pushing its pension bill through France’s Parliament with no vote after enacting article 49.3 of the structure, on March 16, 2023 in Paris, France.
Kiran Ridley | Getty Images News | Getty Images
While Macron was re-elected in 2022, things don’t look good for next 12 months’s European elections, he said, and at home Renaissance will increasingly be pushed right into a corner between the left and right and the controversy will hinder its ability to pass other measures.
Some opposition to the raising of the retirement age centers on how it’ll negatively impact women, public sector employees and folks on lower pay who begin work earlier.
For a lot of on the left, the federal government’s argument that change is required to make sure the pension system’s longevity and reduce its annual deficit of 10 billion euros ($10.73 billion) is a case of priorities, particularly given its policies corresponding to tax breaks benefiting the ultra-wealthy and businesses.
National Rally’s Marine Le Pen, who Macron beat to the highest job in 2022, has also positioned herself against the reforms which she has called an unfair burden on the people — and some analysts say the measure may boost her popularity.
If the no confidence vote does pass, the federal government will probably be forced to resign for the primary time since 1962.
Macron could then either appoint a latest government with a latest prime minister or dissolve parliament, triggering latest elections.
Holger Schmieding, chief economist at German investment bank Berenberg, said French governments normally won votes of no confidence and he expected it to accomplish that this time, leading to the automated enacting of the pension reform.
If it doesn’t, nevertheless, “latest elections for parliament could go against the alliance of parties backing Macron,” Schmieding said in a note.
“If that’s the case, that would turn him right into a lame duck for domestic policies for the rest of his term until 2027.”
Macron has already weakened his position, Schmieding added, and a latest parliament would likely be deeply divided with no majority.
Nevertheless, he noted, Berenberg analysts “remain optimistic that France could largely remain what it appears to be in the mean time: probably the most dynamic of the key European economies.”
Correction: This story has been updated with the proper name for the leader of the National Rally party.