Protests break out in France over Macron’s raising of the retirement age

PARIS (AP) — Protesters disrupted traffic in Paris Friday as angry critics, political opponents and unions across France criticized President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to force a bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote in parliament.

Opposition parties would later start procedures on Friday for a vote of no confidence against the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. The vote is likely to take place early next week.

Macron ordered Borne to use a special constitutional power on Thursday to push through the deeply unpopular pension law without a vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house.

His calculated risk enraged opposition lawmakers, many citizens and unions. Thousands gathered on Thursday to protest in the Place de la Concorde, opposite the National Assembly building. As night fell, police officers attacked the demonstrators in waves to clear the Place. Then small groups moved through nearby streets in the posh Champs-Elysées district. starting street fires.

Similar scenes were repeated in numerous other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed, according to French media.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL on Friday that 310 people were arrested overnight. Most of the arrests, 258, were made in Paris, according to Darmanin.

The unions that had organized strikes and marches against a higher retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the coming days. “This pension reform is ruthless, unfair and unjustified to the working-class world,” they declared.

Macron has made the proposed pension changes a top priority of his second term, arguing that reforms are needed to make the French economy more competitive and prevent the pension system from falling into deficit. France, like many wealthier countries, facing lower birth rates and higher life expectancy.

Macron decided to invoke the special power at a cabinet meeting minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation failed to guarantee majority support. The Senate passed the bill earlier Thursday.

Opposition lawmakers demanded that the government resign. If the expected no-confidence motion fails, the pension law is considered passed. If passed, it would also spell the end of Macron’s pension reform plan and force the government to resign, a first since 1962.

Macron could reappoint Borne if he wanted to, and a new cabinet would be appointed.

Macron’s centrist alliance has the most seats in the National Assembly, where a no-confidence motion also requires the support of a majority. Left-wing and far-right lawmakers are determined to vote in favour.

Republican leaders have said their conservative party will not support the motion. While some party legislators may deviate from that view, they are expected to be a minority.

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