The French government survived two no-confidence votes Monday in the lower chamber of parliament, prompted by a push by President Emmanuel Macron last week to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without giving lawmakers a vote.
National Assembly lawmakers rejected both motions Monday — one from the far-right National Rally and the other, more threatening one from a small centrist group that gathered support across the left.
The first motion, by the centrists, garnered 278 votes, falling short of the 287 needed to pass. The far-right initiative won just 94 votes.
With the failure of both votes Monday, the pension bill is considered adopted.
The tight result in the first vote led some leftist lawmakers to immediately call for Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to resign.
“Only nine votes are missing … to bring both the government down and its reform down,” hard-left lawmaker Mathilde Panot said. “The government is already dead in the eyes of the French, it doesn’t have any legitimacy any more.”
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her group would file a request for the Constitutional Council to examine the bill Tuesday and possibly censure it.
The no-confidence motions were filed by lawmakers furious that Macron ordered the use of special constitutional powers to force through an unpopular bill raising the retirement age without giving them a vote.
The Senate, dominated by conservatives who back the retirement plan, approved the legislation last week.
The no-confidence motions needed the backing of half the seats in the National Assembly to pass. Macron’s centrist alliance has more seats than any other group in the lower chamber.
The head of The Republicans’ lawmakers, Olivier Marleix, said his group wouldn’t vote in favor of the motions.
“We acknowledge the need for a reform to save our pension system and defend retirees’ purchasing power,” he said during the debate Monday afternoon. A minority of conservatives lawmakers strayed from the party line and voted in favor of the first motion.
Centrist lawmaker Charles de Courson, who with his group introduced the motion supported by the left, deplored the government’s decision to use a special constitutional power to skirt a vote on the pension bill last week.
“How can we accept such contempt for parliament? How can we accept such conditions to examine a text which will have lasting effects on the lives of millions of our fellow citizens?” he exclaimed.
Laure Lavalette, of the far-right National Rally party, said “no matter what the outcome is … you have failed to convince the French.”
The tensions in the political arena have been echoed on the streets, marked by intermittent protests and strikes in various sectors, from transport to energy and sanitation workers. Garbage in Paris is piling ever higher and reeking of rotting food on the 15th day of a strike by collectors. The three main incinerators serving the French capital have been mostly blocked, as has a garbage sorting center northwest of Paris.
On Monday, hundreds of mainly young protesters gathered by Les Invalides, the final resting place of Napoleon, to demonstrate against pension reform. Some trash bins were set on fire in early evening, but the protest was otherwise calm. Participants listened to the proceedings in the National Assembly through a channel broadcast on loudspeaker from a union van.
“The goal is to support the workers on strike in Paris … to put pressure on this government that wants to pass this unjust, brutal and useless and ineffective law,” said Kamel Brahmi, of the leftist CGT union, speaking to workers with a bullhorn at the Romainville sorting plant.
Some refineries that supply gas stations also are at least partially blocked, and Transport Minister Clement Beaune said on France-Info radio Monday that he would take action if necessary to ensure that fuel still gets out.
Unions, demanding that the government simply withdraw the retirement bill, have called for new nationwide protests on Thursday.
“I know the questions and concerns that this reform is raising. I know what it asks of many of our fellow citizens,” Borne said Monday. Macron vowed to push the pension plan through, she said, out of “transparency” and “responsibility,” because it is needed to keep the system from diving into deficit amid France’s aging population.
Jeffrey Schaeffer, Thomas Adamson and Nicolas Garriga contributed to this report from Romainville, France.
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