Sunday, March 26, 2023

Anger as French government pushes pension reform without vote – Usky News

Paris: French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used a special procedure on Thursday to push an unpopular pension bill through the National Assembly without a vote, while left-wing lawmakers chanted slogans and waved placards opposing the reform.
The move will ensure a bill to raise the retirement age by two years to 64 – which the government says is essential to ensure the pension system does not fail – is adopted after weeks of protests and fractious debate.
But it also reflects the failure of President Emmanuel Macron and his government to win a majority in parliament, a blow to the centrist president and his ability to garner support from other parties for further reforms.
When the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, arrived to announce that it would invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution to skip the vote on the reform measures, Born was greeted and jeered.
The session was adjourned for two minutes after Borne was prevented from speaking by left-wing MPs singing the national anthem. Some were holding placards that read ‘Not 64 years’.
When the session resumed, Born began to make a speech, but her speech was largely drowned out by opposition members of parliament chanting and “resign” slogans, in rare chaotic scenes in the French parliament.
“We cannot gamble on the future of our pensions, this reform is essential,” Bourne told MPs, explaining why she was using the 49.3 process.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Born should resign. “This last-minute resort to 49.3 is an extraordinary sign of weakness,” she said, “he must go.”
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left France Insomise (France Unbowed), called the move “a spectacular failure”.
“This bill has no parliamentary validity, no street validity,” he said at a protest rally outside Parliament.
‘Great risk’
The bill was cleared in the morning by the Senate, the upper house as expected, thanks to the support of senators from the conservative Les République (LR).
But the afternoon vote in the National Assembly was expected to be a different matter. At the same time, LR MLAs were divided on this issue.
According to a source present at the last-minute meeting at the Elysee, Macron told Borne and others that he wanted to go to the vote.
“But I agree that the financial and economic risks (of voting for the bill) are too high,” he said.
strike and protest
Opinion polls show a majority of voters oppose pension reform, as do trade unions, who say there are other ways to balance the accounts, including taxing the wealthy more.
Resorting to the measure is likely to further anger unions, protesters and left-wing opposition parties, who say the pensions overhaul is unfair and unnecessary.
Fabian Russell, head of the French Communist Party, said, “This government is not worthy of our fifth republic, French democracy.”
Socialist party chief Olivier Faure told Reuters earlier on Thursday such a move could spark “uncontrollable anger” after weeks of rolling strikes and protests.
Le Pen’s National Rally and Mélenchon’s France Insomis said they would request a vote of no confidence in the government, which would be voted on in the coming days, possibly on Monday.
It is unlikely to pass as most Conservative MPs would not be expected to support it – unless a surprise coalition of MPs from all sides is formed, from the far-right to the left and including the Conservatives.
The government initially said the reform would allow the system to break even by 2030, with 17.7 billion euros in additional annual contributions coming from pushing back the retirement age and extending pay-in periods.
It said the accounts would still be balanced in that time frame, with additional income compensation measures by Macron’s camp to try to get the support of the LR, which has started working early and for some working mothers. Top-up included.


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