Protests in Paris over Pension Reforms Implemented Without Vote
In Paris, the police and protesters clashed over the French government’s decision to implement pension reforms without a vote in parliament. This decision was made to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, which had led to two months of intense political debate and strikes.
French Government Invokes Constitutional Procedure to Avoid Vote in Parliament
The Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, invoked article 49:3 of the constitution, minutes before the scheduled vote on the bill in the Assembly. This move allowed the government to avoid the vote, as they were not guaranteed a majority. The decision caused outrage among opposition politicians, who jeered the prime minister and held up protest signs in parliament. The opposition also plans to file a no-confidence motion against President Emmanuel Macron’s government.
Thousands of people in Paris and other French cities took to the streets, rejecting the move and singing the national anthem while waving trade union flags. As evening fell, some protesters clashed with the police, leading to arrests and tear gas. Despite this, the unions have vowed to maintain their opposition to the pension changes, and another day of strikes and demonstrations is being planned for March 23.
The constitutional procedure used by the government, although not common, is not unheard of. The 49:3 has been used precisely 100 times in the more than 60 years of the Fifth Republic by governments of all shades. It is used when a government needs to bypass a vote which might be lost. However, it is immediately criticized for disregarding the will of the people.
While Mr. Macron was re-elected last year on a platform of retirement reforms, his ruling coalition has no majority in the Assembly and would have needed support from the Republicans party to pass the pension changes. The government resorted to special constitutional powers, knowing some of their MPs could vote against or abstain due to the evident unpopularity of the bill.
France’s Political Landscape Highlighted as Difficult to Reform
The bill is regularly described by opponents as “brutal”, “inhuman,” and “degrading,” despite being far less dramatic than other countries in Europe’s pension reforms. However, morale in France is low, and the people see retirement as a bright spot in the future, and many feel that this is a government of the rich taking even that away.
The use of the 49:3 has caused controversy and anger among the people and opposition parties. Despite this, the unions have vowed to maintain their opposition to the pension changes, and the government may face a vote of no-confidence. The dispute once again highlights the difficulties in reforming France’s political landscape.