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20 Mar, 2023 22:49

French protests rage after vote on pension reform (VIDEOS)

Violent unrest has continued across the country after lawmakers failed to depose the government over the debated bill
French protests rage after vote on pension reform (VIDEOS)

The French government has survived two parliamentary no-confidence votes over President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to push through a controversial pension reform bill without lawmakers’ approval. The failed motions on Monday were followed by renewed violent unrest overnight.

The first no-confidence motion, tabled by a small group of opposition lawmakers, garnered significant support in the National Assembly, dominated by Macron’s centrist alliance. The motion fell just nine votes short of the 287 required to pass. The second motion, put forward by the right-wing National Rally party, was backed by only 94 lawmakers.

Despite failing to pass the motions, some opposition lawmakers urged the government to resign anyway. “The government is already dead in the eyes of the French,” left-wing MP Mathilde Panot said after the votes. “It doesn’t have any legitimacy anymore.” 

In wake of the no-confidence votes, France’s top police trade union, the SGP Police FO, warned that officers might no be able to contain the ongoing unrest. “We’re starting to run out of steam on the police side,” the union said, bemoaning the so-called “punch actions” by protesters, such as suddenly blocking roads and causing other disruptions.

The protests apparently lived up to expectations, with assorted chaotic footage emerging overnight. Multiple videos from the French capital city of Paris show barricades erected in the streets, with various objects set on fire.

The police were pictured repeatedly charging the crowds, beating individual protesters, apparently without attempting to detain them.

The unrest is expected to continue across France into the coming days, with trade unions calling for a “maximum mobilization” and a “general strike” expected to kick off as soon as Tuesday.

Macron opted last week to push through the long-debated bill, raising the retirement age in France from 62 to 64, without parliament’s approval. The move only further fueled ongoing strife across France, with violent protests raging for weeks as trade unions voiced their opposition to the proposed measure.

The bill, however, is still pending a review by the Constitutional Council before it can be signed into law. While the body has powers to dismiss certain articles within a bill, should it deem them to be unconstitutional, the council rarely actually does so.