Protests rage as the French leader sidesteps the opposition and uses a special constitutional power to raise the retirement age.
President Emmanuel Macron has shunned the French parliament, opting to push through a deeply unpopular pension reform bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The French leader wants to raise the retirement age so that workers put more money into the system, which the government says is heading for a deficit.
On Thursday, his government exercised a special constitutional power amid calls for a vote of no confidence from the opposition – a move that has drawn protests in Paris.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne launched a special procedure to push the bill through the National Assembly without a vote, sparking shouts and chants from left-wing lawmakers waving signs against the reform reading “No to 64”.
The move, taking advantage of Article 49.3 of the French constitution, will see the bill pass, but it shows that Macron and his government failed to secure a sufficient majority in parliament.
The country’s far-right opposition has announced that it will introduce a vote of no confidence in the government.
The decision is a “total failure” for Macron and Borne “cannot stay” in her post, said Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate in the last two presidential elections, who now leads National Rally (RN) deputies in parliament.
The bill is the flagship of Macron’s second term. The unpopular plan has sparked major strikes and protests across the country since January.
‘Failure of politics’
“Pushing a bill through by decree is something that is rarely done and in many ways it is seen as a failure of politics,” said Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, who reported outside the French parliament.
Butler said protesters and unions have said that whatever happens, they will continue to oppose the bill.
“Opinion polls suggest that somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of the French public oppose a bill they see as unfair and which they believe undermines their rights,” Butler said.
Earlier on Thursday, Borne was greeted with boos when she arrived at the National Assembly to announce the special procedure.
The session was adjourned for two minutes after left-wing lawmakers singing the national anthem prevented Borne from speaking.
When the session resumed, Borne took the floor. But her speech was largely drowned out by boos and chants from opposition MPs and cries of “acquiescence”, in a rare chaotic scene at the French parliament.
A tense atmosphere reigned outside parliament as heavily armed guards and riot police surrounded neighborhoods around the National Assembly.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 193 to 114, a count largely expected given that the conservative majority of the upper house of parliament favors raising the retirement age.
Macron’s alliance lost its parliamentary majority last year, forcing the government to rely on conservative lawmakers to pass the bill.
Left-wing and far-right lawmakers are fiercely opposed and conservatives are divided, making the outcome unpredictable.