Expect Riots: Macron Govt Uses Constitutional Loophole to Avoid Vote and Pass Retirement Age Rise

PARIS, FRANCE - March 16: Protesters participate in a demonstration against French governm
Firas Abdullah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron was thrown into chaos on Thursday after it used a controversial constitutional loophole to pass his widely contested bill to raise the retirement age after it was doubtful that the legislation would secure a majority vote in the National Assembly.

Thousands of people immediately took to the streets and leftist leaders and union chiefs have already called for mass demonstrations over the weekend after French Prime Minster Elisabeth Borne took to the floor of the National Assembly — amid shouts of “resign” from opposition MPs — to invoke article 49.3 of the constitution, a mechanism often described as the “nuclear option” in French legislative politics, as it allows the government to pass bills without the need for a majority vote.

Justifying the decision to invoke the article, President said the “financial and economic risks are too great” of not raising the pension age from 62 to 64-years-old, with the government arguing that the programme faces insolvency otherwise.

“We were at the end of the exercise. We have too much uncertainty. We will not take the risk of putting ourselves back in the hands of our political opponents who had nevertheless committed to reform,” a government spokesman told the Le Parisian newspaper.

However, the deployment of article 49.3 does not mean that the Macron government is out of the woods yet, with populist right-wing National Rally (RN) in the National Assembly, Marine Le Pen vowing to launch a measure of no confidence on Friday, which if successful, would likely see Prime Minister Borne forced to resign and possibly the dissolving of parliament by Macron.

“The use of 49.3 for the 11th time and on a text so fundamental and massively rejected by the French, betrays the headlong rush of an executive who no longer hears and no longer listens to the people,” Le Pen said.

Should the motion fail, opposition parties in the NA could still launch an appeal to the constitutional council to request a referendum vote among the public to overturn the legislation.

Joining spontaneous protests on the streets of Paris after the news broke, leftist leader of the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) group in the National Assembly, Jean-Luc Mélenchon said that the pension reforms have “no parliamentary legitimacy”.

Suggesting that this could see the end of President Macron’s reign, Mélenchon added: “On the basis of this spectacular failure, we could not see that there is no presidential majority. The presidential minority collapsed before your eyes.”

Even some from within Macron’s Renaissance political party have expressed outrage over the move, with MP Eric Bothorel saying that he is wavering “between disappointment and anger”.

“We should have put it to a vote,” Bothorel said. “We owed that to the opposition, to those who demonstrated their disagreement always in a calm and dignified manner. Defeat or victory, democracy would have spoken.”

The political turmoil comes less than one year after Mr Macron secured a second term as president, which while he won by a comfortable margin, saw Le Pen surge to 41.5 per cent of the vote, with younger millennials and working-class voters turning their backs on the globalist agenda of Macron, who campaigned on the promise of reforming the pension system in order to keep the European nation’s large welfare state afloat.

Less than two months later, Macron was stripped of his governing majority in the parliament after securing just 245 seats in the National Assembly elections, forcing him to form a coalition with the centre-right Les Republicains to maintain the required 289 vote majority.

The attempts to raise the pension age have seen millions pour out onto the streets in trade union-organised protests and strikes across the nation, which have seen seen violent rioting in cities such as Paris and Marseille, as well as activists launching blockades of ports and energy refineries in an attempt to force the government’s hand. Strikes have also seen the streets of Paris strewn with tonnes of garbage as municipal workers walked off the job.

Unions have already announced that they intend on launching more ‘mobilisations’ in response to the invocation of article 49.3, with two protest days likely to be planned for next week.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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