French pension reform opponents fail to pass repeal bill

AP , Thursday 8 Jun 2023

Opponents of French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform failed on Thursday to pass a repeal bill, in their latest effort to maintain the retirement age at 62.

France Parliament
MPs applaud French National Assembly president Yael Braun-Pivet during a session of questions to the draft law on the repeal of the pensions reform raising the retirement age to 64, at the National Assembly, in Paris, on June 8, 2023. AFP


Centrist opposition group LIOT decided to withdraw its bill a couple of hours after the heated debate started because the text had been emptied of its initial content.

Macron’s unpopular reform provides that the legal retirement age will go up to 64 by 2030.

Bertrand Pancher, from the LIOT group, said "this pension reform has been enacted, but at what cost? At what cost for the more modest of our fellow citizens who will suffer more from the impact of this reform? ... And at what cost for our democracy, our social cohesion?"

The repeal bill was supported by the left and the far-right.

Macron’s centrist party doesn’t have a majority in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, but it allied with some Republican lawmakers to push back the opposition’s efforts.

As a result, the key article stipulating the retirement age was removed from the bill when it was reviewed by the Social Affairs Committee last week.

Leftist lawmakers said they would now prompt a confidence vote, to be held at the beginning of next week. Macron’s government has survived previous confidence votes.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally group of lawmakers, said the government doesn’t have a majority on the bill either at the Assembly or among the French people. “You are afraid of the vote, yes it’s true, but because in fact you are afraid of the people. The consequence is that your pension reform is illegitimate,” she said.

Macron’s move to raise the retirement age — and force the measure through parliament without a vote — inflamed public emotions and triggered some of France’s biggest demonstrations in years. But the intensity of anger over the pension reform has ebbed since the last big protests on May 1, and since the measure became law in April.

Turnout at protests on Tuesday in Paris and across France was lower than at previous demonstrations.

In recent weeks, Macron has sought to focus public attention on some other changes he promised to re-industrialize France, improve working conditions and finalize a new immigration bill. Yet with no majority at parliament, his government is expected to keep struggling to pass most measures.

Some more consensual texts, however, have been approved in recent weeks by the National Assembly.

That includes a key bill to increase France's military spending for the period of 2024-2030 by more than a third compared with the previous timeframe, as a consequence of the war in Ukraine. It was approved Wednesday by a large majority, with 408 lawmakers in favor and 87 against. The bill is now heading to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved.

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