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French gov’t’s unpopular pension bill pushed through without vote

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used a special procedure to push an unpopular pensions bill through the National Assembly without a vote on Thursday, amid shouts from opposition lawmakers brandishing placards against the reform.

The move, using the so-called article 49:3 of the constitution, will ensure the bill raising the retirement age by two years to 64 is adopted after weeks of protests and fractious debate.

But it also shows President Emmanuel Macron and his government failed to garner enough of a majority in parliament, in a blow to the centrist president and his ability to win support from other parties for further reforms.

When the session resumed, Borne took the floor but her speech was largely drowned out by boos and chants from opposition members of parliament and shouts of “resignation”, in rare chaotic scenes in the French parliament.

“We cannot gamble on the future of our pensions, this reform is necessary,” Borne told lawmakers, to explain why she was using the 49:3 procedure. Macron and his government say raising the retirement age is necessary to get the pension system out of the red by the end of the decade.

Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt, who pushed for the reforms in both chambers of parliament, looked close to ears, and was comforted by Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti.

Resorting to the 49:3 measure is likely to further enrage unions, protesters and left-wing opposition parties that say the pension overhaul is unfair and unnecessary.

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