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French gov’t faces riots and no-confidence motions over pension reform

The French government is facing two motions for a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly after the pension reform was pushed through by the cabinet of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. Meanwhile, across the country, 310 people were detained during riots organized by opponents of the reform.

On Thursday, the French government decided to use its constitutional right to adopt a pension reform without putting it to a vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. In response, MPs from the small LIOT party announced they would submit an “interparty” motion of no-confidence backed by the radical left-wing Nupes party.

“The government’s decision to use Article 49.3 of the constitution is the apogee of denial of democracy (…) and disregard for our institutions,” LIOT wrote in its application.

The second application was submitted by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Union (RN) in declaring that the pension reform was “unfair and unnecessary”.

287 MPs have to support either of the no-confidence votes to overthrow the government. Such a scenario is unlikely as the government will probably be supported by the center-right Republican party.

Still, the cabinet faces a major political crisis as well as nationwide protests against the pension reform.

Forceful adoption of the reform triggered spontaneous protests in many cities. Cars and trash bins were set on fire while many streets, train stations, and roads were blocked. In Paris, police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Paris’ Place de la Concorde, where about 7,000 people had gathered.

Trade unions have called for the protests to continue over the weekend. They plan to organize a major demonstration on Thursday, March 23. Unionists claim that the “forceful” adoption of the reformed pension law holds the government “responsible for the social and political crisis that results from this decision, which is a real anti-democracy.”

The changes in the pension system have upped the retirement age from 62 to 64. The government claims it has saved the pension system from imploding. The increase in retirement age also sought to encourage experienced, competent, and fully-fledged people to stay in their market of work for longer.

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