Macron Survives ‘No-Confidence’ Vote

French President Emmanuel Macron | Image by President Emmanuel Macron/Shutterstock

The French government survived two no-confidence votes in the National Assembly on Monday, yet the crisis in which both President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne have become embroiled is far from over.

The two votes held on March 20 were spurred by Macron’s use of special constitutional powers — known as the 49:3 clause — to push through pension reforms without a vote by the country’s elected legislative body on March 16.

“This reform isn’t a luxury, it’s not a pleasure, it’s a necessity,” said Macron, per BBC News.

Since this move, France’s retirement age was raised two years from age 62 to 64 — something that 88% of French people oppose, according to a survey by Elabe.

Protestors have taken to the street every night since Thursday, resulting in some clashes with police as well as hundreds of arrests in different cities across France.

A high of 1.28 million protestors was recorded by the French Interior Ministry, per CNN.

Another round of strikes and national protests will take place on Thursday, many being organized by labor unions from across the political spectrum. Trash collection, gas stations, and public transportation have been greatly affected by the strikes.

Labor unions have been expressing their displeasure with Macron’s proposed reforms to the pension system for weeks.

Seeing the writing on the wall a week before the 49:3 clause was invoked, labor unions asked the president to sit down for talks. The request was refused twice.

“As the guarantor of our institutions, it is my duty to protect the parliamentary period that is currently underway,” Macron wrote in a letter to labor unions explaining that the matter was in the hands of lawmakers, per Le Monde.

Some of these very same lawmakers led the recent call for a vote of non-confidence on Monday in the National Assembly.

The first motion was led by LIOT, a coalition of smaller independent and centrist parties, but it fell short of the 287-vote majority by just nine votes.

The second motion was brought forward by National Rally, a far-right party, but it drew only 94 votes.

At present, leaders of the opposition are aiming to make an appeal to France’s highest constitutional authority, the Constitutional Council, in order to halt some or all of the reform. The members of the Constitutional Council would be given a maximum of one month to review any objections raised.

In the meantime, both Macron’s and Borne’s approval ratings have dropped below 30%, with 7 out of 10 French people believing that bypassing parliament to pass the measure is a violation of democracy, per a survey by Elabe.

“Between short-term opinion polls and the broader interest of the nation, I choose [the latter],” Macron said during a televised interview. “If it is necessary to accept unpopularity today, I will accept it.”

He maintained his argument that the reforms are necessary given the demographics of the country.

France allocates more funds toward pensions than most other nations, equivalent to almost 14% of its economic output, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation. Macron asserts that the current system, which is dependent on the working population to provide for an increasing number of retirees, is no longer sustainable.

“The longer we wait, the more it [the deficit] will deteriorate,” Macron explained during the interview.

At the same time, popular anger against the reforms continues to escalate and shows no sign of letting up.

A survey by Elabe showed that 65% of French respondents support further protests against the pension reform and 58% favor the use of more disruptive tactics, including strikes and blockades.

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