Macron faces new test with vote of no confidence on pension reform on Monday By Reuters

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© Reuters. People attend a demonstration to protest the French government’s use of Article 49.3, a special clause of the French Constitution, to push the pension reform bill through the National Assembly without a vote of legislators, in Nantes, France, on March 18

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By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS (Reuters) – President Emanuel Macron faces a critical moment on Monday when France’s National Assembly must vote on no-confidence motions tabled after his government bypassed parliament on Thursday to impose an unpopular increase in the age of retirement.

The move, which follows weeks of protests over the pension overhaul, sparked three nights of unrest and protests in Paris and across the country, with hundreds arrested, reminiscent of the yellow vest protests that erupted end of 2018 against high fuel prices.

In a sign that Macron was holding firm, his office said on Sunday evening that the president had called the heads of the upper house of the Senate and the National Assembly to say that he wanted the pension reform to go “to the end of his democratic process. “.

Macron also told them that the government was mobilized to “protect” parliamentarians who come under pressure ahead of the vote.

However, while Monday’s votes may highlight the level of anger against the Macron government, they are unlikely to lower it.

Opposition MPs tabled two no-confidence motions in Parliament on Friday.

The centrist group Liot proposed a cross-party no-confidence motion, which was co-signed by the far-left Nupes alliance. A few hours later, the far-right National Rally party, which has 88 deputies in the National Assembly, also tabled a motion of censure.

But even though Macron’s party lost its absolute majority in the lower house after last year’s election, the cross-party motion was unlikely to pass – unless a surprise alliance of lawmakers from all sides did. be formed from extreme left to extreme left. -LAW.

Leaders of the conservative Les Républicains (LR) party have ruled out such an alliance. None of them had sponsored the first motion of no confidence tabled on Friday.

But the party still faced some pressure.

In the southern city of Nice, the political office of Republican leader Eric Ciotti was ransacked overnight and tags were left threatening riots if the motion was not backed.

“They want to violently pressure my vote on Monday. I will never give in to the new disciples of Terror,” Ciotti wrote on Twitter.

BROAD ALLIANCE

Macron’s overhaul raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not collapse.

Even if the government survives Monday’s no-confidence vote, a broad alliance of France’s main unions have said it will continue to mobilize in an attempt to force a reversal on the changes. A nationwide day of labor action is scheduled for Thursday.

Laurent Berger, leader of the moderate CFDT union, told the French daily Liberation that the pension reform was “not a failure, it’s a shipwreck” for the government.

Philippe Martinez, leader of the far-left CGT union, told BFM television he condemned the violence but said it was Macron’s “responsibility if the level of anger is so high”.

Macron’s approval rating fell four points last month to 28%, according to an IFOP-Journal du Dimanche poll, its lowest level since the yellow vest crisis.

Strikes at refineries across the country persisted over the weekend, raising concerns about possible fuel shortages.

Less than 4% of French service stations, however, experienced supply disruptions, René-Jean Souquet-Grumey, head of the federation of Mobilians service stations, told franceinfo radio on Sunday.

Rolling strikes continued on the railways, while rubbish piled up on the streets of Paris after garbage collectors joined the action.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien newspaper, commenting on the prospects for Monday’s votes: “I don’t think there will be a majority to bring down the government. But it will be a moment of truth. “.

“Is pension reform worth bringing down the government and (creating) political disorder? The answer is clearly no. Everyone must take responsibility,” he added.

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