Protesters blocked a key highway around the French capital and escalated strikes at refineries Friday in a new show of anger after President Emmanuel Macron pushed through a contentious pension reform without a parliamentary vote. Macron‘s move sparked protests across the country on Thursday night, with more than 300 people arrested nationwide, according to the interior minister. The Associated Press has the story:
Opposition parties were expected to start procedures later Friday for a no-confidence vote on the government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. The vote would likely take place early next week.
Macron ordered Borne on Thursday to make use of a special constitutional power to push the highly unpopular pension bill through without a vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.
His calculated risk infuriated opposition lawmakers, many citizens and unions. Thousands gathered in protest Thursday at the Place de la Concorde, which faces the National Assembly building. As night fell, police officers charged the demonstrators in waves to clear the Place. Small groups then moved through nearby streets in the chic Champs-Elysees neighborhood,. setting street fires.
Similar scenes repeated themselves 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 trade unions that had organized strikes and marches against a higher retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the days ahead. “This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers,” they declared.
Macron decided to invoke the special power during a Cabinet meeting a few minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation had no guarantee of securing majority support. The Senate adopted the bill earlier Thursday.
Opposition lawmakers demanded the government to step down. If the expected no-confidence motion fails, the pension bill would be considered adopted. If it passes, it would also spell the end Macron’s retirement reform plan and force the government to resign, a first since 1962.
Macron could reappoint Borne if he chooses, and a new Cabinet would be named.
Macron’s centrist alliance has the most seats in the National Assembly, where a no-confidence motion also requires majority support. Left-wing and far-right lawmakers are determined to vote in favor.
Leaders of the The Republicans have said their conservative party would not back the motion. While some party lawmakers might stray from that position, they are expected to be a minority.