Macron shrugs off two no-confidence votes to ram through hated pension reforms

The proposed reforms had led to months of protests and thousands of people took to the streets in protest against the changes on Tuesday. Opponents fear the pension changes will mean people have to work longer for less money. As politicians in the National Assembly accused Mr Macron of “dictatorial” behaviour in a debate that started on Tuesday and lasted past midnight, protesters illuminated the Champs-Elysees with red flares.

The pension reform prompted France’s worst strikes in decades throughout December and January, crippling public transportation and disrupting schools, hospitals and courts.

Demonstrators were also angry at Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s decision last week to use a special constitutional power to push the retirement bill through the Assembly without a vote, to speed up the complex legislative process after the damaging strikes.

In response, opposition members from the left and from the right called two no-confidence votes on Tuesday against Mr Macron’s centrist government.

Despite all the public criticism Mr Macron has faced, his La Republique En Marche party has a large majority in the National Assembly, and the votes both fell far short of the 289 votes needed to pass.

That means the bill has now cleared the lower house, and goes next to the Senate where conservatives have the majority.

The left wants to scrap the reform, fearing it weakens France’s welfare state and will force workers to rely on private pension funds, while some politicians on the right say it is not bold enough.

The prime minister defended his decision to force the bill through, and insisted the retirement reform was the only way to save France’s welfare system as the population gets older and life expectancy lengthens.

“This model is our most precious asset, it’s our national treasure,” Mr Philippe said.

“We must fix it when it is not working, to be able to pass it on to our children.”

The bill itself does not directly affect the pension age.

But in parallel, the government is holding a three-month discussion with unions about financing the pension system, including potential measures to raise taxes or the retirement age, a move opposed by the CGT and FO unions.

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