PARIS — The French government is facing a critical, perhaps fatal, moment on Monday with motions of no confidence presented by MPs furious that President Emmanuel Macron ordered the use of special constitutional powers to force through an unpopular bill that raises the age of pension from 62 to 64 without voting.
National Assembly lawmakers are set to vote this afternoon on two no-confidence motions, one by the far-right National Rally and the other, a more threatening one by a small centrist group that has gathered support on the left.
The Senate, dominated by conservatives who support the withdrawal plan, approved the legislation last week.
Motions of no confidence need the support of 287 parliamentarians, or half of the seats in the National Assembly, to pass. The initiatives appear unlikely to succeed, as Macron’s centrist alliance has more seats than any other group in the lower house.
The leader of the Republican parliamentarians, Olivier Marleix, said that his group would not vote in favor of the motions.
“We recognize the need for reform to save our pension system and defend the purchasing power of pensioners,” he said while the debate was on Monday afternoon. A minority of conservative MPs may break away from the party line, but it remains to be seen whether they are willing to oust Macron’s government.
Although the motions seem unlikely to succeed, the climate of protest that Macron’s pension reforms have sparked in parliament and on the streets means that the outcome of the vote in the National Assembly is not guaranteed. No motion has succeeded since 1962.
The centrist deputy Charles de Courson, who with his group introduced the left-backed motion, deplored the government’s decision to use a special constitutional power to throw out 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 that will have lasting effects on the lives of millions of our fellow citizens?” he exclaimed.
The hard-left lawmaker Mathilde Panot told the government that “people look at you like we look at someone who has betrayed, with a mixture of anger and disgust.”
Laure Lavalette, of the far-right National Rally party, said that “no matter what the result is … you will not succeed in convincing the French.”
The tensions in the political arena are reflected in the streets, marked by intermittent protests and strikes in various sectors, from transport to energy and health workers. Garbage in Paris piles up higher and higher and stinks of rot eat the 15th day of the collectors’ strike. The three main incinerators that serve the French capital were mostly blocked, as was a garbage crushing center northwest of Paris.
“The objective is to support the striking workers 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 left-wing CGT union. a bullhorn at the Romainville mill.
Some refineries supplying gas stations are also at least partially blocked, and Transport Minister Clement Beaune said France-Info radio Monday that he will take action if necessary to ensure that the fuel still comes out.
The unions, demanding that the government withdraw only the withdrawal bill, called for new demonstrations across the country on Thursday.
If the votes of no confidence fail, the bill is considered adopted. It is then expected to go to the Constitutional Council before becoming law, if validated by the body.
If a majority agrees, it would mean the end of the pension reform plan and force the government to resign. A new Cabinet will be appointed. Macron could keep Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne if he chooses; no other names have been floated.
Borne has taken the brunt of the opposition’s fury and is ready to defend himself before parliamentarians on Monday.
If the no-confidence motion passes, it would be a major blow to Macron, who is likely to face the remainder of his second term, which ends in 2027.
Jeffrey Schaeffer and Nicolas Garriga contributed to this report from Romainville, France.