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World News | Macron avoids parliament to raise French retirement age

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PARIS, March 16 (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday implemented a wildly unpopular bill that would lower the retirement age by avoiding parliament and invoking a special constitutional power. Increased from 62 to 64 years.

Lawmakers yelled, their voices trembling with emotion as Macron took the risky move, which is expected to spark a motion of no confidence in his government. Riot police vehicles roared past outside the National Assembly, sirens kept ringing.

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Proposed pension reforms have sparked mass strikes and protests across the country since January. Macron, who has made it his flagship for a second term, argues reforms are needed to prevent the pension system from slipping into deficit as France’s population ages and life expectancy rises.

The decision to invoke the special powers was taken at a cabinet meeting at the Élysée presidential palace, just minutes before a scheduled vote, as Macron could not guarantee a majority in the lower house of the French parliament.

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Then, when Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tried to formally announce the decision in the National Assembly, members of the left broke into the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, delaying her speech. The Speaker had to temporarily suspend the meeting to restore order.

Borne explained that “today, it’s not certain” that a majority would vote for the bill “by just a few votes.” “We cannot risk seeing 175 hours of parliamentary debate collapse…we cannot gamble on our pension future. This reform is needed,” she said.

Borne said her government was accountable to parliament, prompting boos from the opposition ranks.

“In a few days, I have no doubt … there will be one or several no-confidence motions. There will actually be a proper vote, so parliamentary democracy will have the final say,” she added.

Lawmakers on the left and far right were quick to confirm their next move.

Marine Le Pen said her National Rally party would table a no-confidence motion, and Communist MP Fabien Roussel said a left-wing motion was “ready to go”.

“Mobilization will continue,” Russell said. “This reform must be put on hold.”

To pass, the no-confidence motion needs to be approved by at least half of the House of Commons – currently 287. In this case, for the first time since 1962, the government will have to resign.

If the motion of no confidence is unsuccessful, the pensions bill will be deemed passed.

The Senate passed the bill in a 193-114 vote earlier Thursday, a result that was largely expected because the conservative majority in the upper house of parliament backed raising the retirement age.

Macron’s coalition lost its parliamentary majority last year, forcing the government to count on conservative lawmakers to pass the bill. Strong opposition from left-wing and far-right lawmakers and a divided conservative wing have made the outcome unpredictable.

The French leader wants to raise the retirement age so workers can pour more money into the system, which the government says will run a deficit.

Macron has made pension reform central to his vision to make the French economy more competitive. The reforms would raise the minimum pension age and require 43 years of work to qualify for a full pension, among other measures.

Nearly 500,000 people across the country protested against the bill on Wednesday.

The economic challenges have sparked widespread unrest across Western Europe. In Britain on Wednesday, teachers, junior doctors and public transport workers went on strike to demand higher wages in response to rising prices. Spain’s leftist government and unions have announced a “historic” deal to save its pension system by raising social security costs for high earners. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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