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Fighting Over France’s Pensions

France pension demonstrations: Fighting follows Macron’s order to raise the retirement age without a vote 

After the French administration opted to push through pension reforms without a vote in parliament, police and demonstrators fought in Paris. 

In response to the retirement age increase from 62 to 64, crowds gathered in Place de la Concorde. 

Two months of vehement political debate and strikes had been provoked by the plans. 

The government may now avoid a vote in the Assembly by using article 49:3 of the constitution, according to Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne. 

There was no assurance of securing a majority, therefore the decision was made just minutes before MPs were due to vote on the contentious law. 

Politicians from the opposition were incensed by the action. At parliament, many booed the prime minister, performed the Marseillaise, and displayed protest signs. 

President Emmanuel Macron’s administration will be the target of a no-confidence vote, according to far-right opposition figurehead Marine Le Pen. 

Mathilde Panot, the leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise (LFI), stated that Mr. Macron has thrown the nation into a government crisis without the support of either the parliamentary or popular parties. 

The national anthem was sung and union flags were waved as thousands of people protested the decision in the streets of Paris and other French cities. 

Protesters hold a board reading “64 is dead” during a demonstration against the government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64, in Paris, France, on March 15, 2023.

As dusk fell, several demonstrators and police engaged in combat. The Plaza de la Concorde was set on fire, and police with shields and batons moved to clear the area while firing tear gas into it. 

According to the Paris police, 120 persons had been detained by evening. 

Nonetheless, unions pledged to continue to oppose the pension changes, and the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) announced that a further day of strikes and protests was scheduled for Thursday, March 23. 

The constitutional procedure that has caused all this ire may appear to be obscure, but it is an important component of French politics. 

Despite the fact that Mr. Macron ran for reelection last year on a platform of retirement reforms, his ruling coalition lacks a majority in the Assembly, making Republican support for the pension changes necessary. 

In an effort to approve their plan, representatives from Mr. Macron’s Renaissance party spent the morning frantically cajoling lawmakers. 

Because to the bill’s obvious unpopularity and the knowledge that some of their MPs may abstain, they turned to extraordinary constitutional authorities. 

But, whenever a government uses the 49:3, it may be sure that it will be immediately accused of trampling on the people’s will. 

In actuality, it has been employed by all types of governments exactly 100 times over the course of the Fifth Republic’s more than 60-year history. 

Evidently, governments without a parliamentary majority, like those of the socialist Michel Rocard in the 1980s and Élisabeth Borne today, tend to employ it more frequently. 

In reality, she has previously used it several times, although those instances involved less contentious public budget issues. 

The disadvantage for the administration is that the opposition parties can immediately introduce a vote of no-confidence in the event that the procedure is used to avoid a vote that would be lost. 

The government would be overthrown if these were approved. Currently, that is a theoretical possibility, but it is improbable because it would require the far right, the left, and a significant portion of the conservative opposition to unite. 

The conflict makes France appear incapable of change once more. The change in the pension age is not very significant when compared to other European nations. 

However the bill is routinely criticized by opponents as “brutal”, “inhuman” and “degrading”. 

France’s morale is poor and declining, and retirement is seen as a potential bright light by many. But, many believe that even that is being taken away by this government of the wealthy.

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