A dog day afternoon in French politics as Macron uses 'nuclear option' to raise retirement age

© Valery Hache, AFP

France entered a period of political uncertainty on Thursday as French President Emmanuel Macron rammed a controversial pension reform through parliament without a vote by invoking a special executive measure. With the opposition braced for a no-confidence vote and the unions threatening more strikes, France witnessed a dramatic afternoon in politics.

The scenes in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, on Thursday appeared to have been lifted from historical dramas dating back to the country’s revolutionary past.

Aux armes citoyens, formez vos bataillons,” sang opposition lawmakers as the chamber echoed with the rousing cry of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, rallying citizens to take up arms and form battalions. “S’il vous plait, s’il vous plait,” pleaded Yaël Braun-Pivet, the speaker of the National Assembly, ineffectually trying to get order in the house.

“Today, we are faced with uncertainty that hinges on a few votes. We cannot take the risk of 175 hours of parliamentary debates collapsing,” said the 61-year-old French prime minister, raising her voice above the din. “On the basis of Article 49.3 of the constitution, I engage the responsibility of my government on the pension reform bill.”

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