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  1. World
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20 March 2023

Chaos erupts over Emmanuel Macron’s retirement reforms

The French president’s decision to bypass parliament has caused outrage and sparked significant protests this weekend.

By Ido Vock

On Friday, after weeks of uncertainty, the French president Emmanuel Macron invoked article 49.3 of the French Constitution to pass his contentious and unpopular retirement reform into law. The reform, which raises the age of retirement from 62 to 64, will now become law unless at least one of two long-shot censure motions is approved by a majority of MPs today.

Macron’s decision to bypass parliament has caused outrage and sparked significant protests. French cities were shaken by riots over the weekend. MPs offices have been ransacked and parliamentarians threatened with violence if they do not vote to censure the government. Rubbish is piling up in the streets of Paris as a result of sanitation worker strikes. “It stinks,” my dad informed me when he called me from Paris yesterday.

The government is likely to survive the confidence motions. One, submitted by the far-right National Rally (RN), will not be supported by MPs from the left-wing NUPES alliance, who have said they will not vote for an RN motion. A second, from the multi-party LIOT faction, will probably pick up more votes. It too will likely fail, however, as MPs for the centre-right Republican Party, whose support would be required for it to pass, may not back it in sufficient numbers.

If the censure motions fail, opponents of the law will be out of options aside from escalating direct action. Unions have pledged to do so, promising indefinite strikes and protests. In invoking the 49.3 article, Macron gambled that he could outmanoeuvre the parliamentary opposition and outlast outrage on the streets at his decision to override parliament. The coming days will determine whether his bet was well-judged. 

[See also: Emmanuel Macron is running out of options]

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