We’ll meet in the streets, furious protesters tell Macron after he survives confidence vote
Emmanuel Macron faced an angry backlash on Monday night after his government narrowly survived a confidence vote over his controversial pension reforms.
Violent protests broke out as demonstrators were urged to take to the streets by opposition leaders and unions who vowed to intensify strikes ahead of another mass walkout on Thursday.
MPs from the hard-Left France Unbowed party shouted “Resign!” at Elisabeth Borne, the prime minister, moments after the failed bid to topple the government, while some brandished placards that read: “We’ll meet in the streets.”
Not long after the results were announced, protests broke out close to the National Assembly. Demonstrators set rubbish bins on fire and chanted about the beheading of Louis XVI and Mr Macron.
Spontaneous demonstrations also appeared in Dijon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Lillie, where police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds early in the evening.
Though the government’s survival was expected the margin was slimmer than predicted, with the no-confidence motion falling just nine votes short of the 287 needed to pass.
The failure to topple the government means Mr Macron’s contentious pension reform bill, which raises the age of retirement from 62 to 64, becomes law.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, France Unbowed’s leader, said that “there is no question of letting two years of life be stolen by nine voices”, referring to the key votes that kept Mr Macron’s government afloat, adding: “We must, by strike and by demonstration, obtain the withdrawal of the bill.”
In a statement that also called for renewing strikes and “amplifying” mobilisation, one of the leading trade unions said: “Nothing undermines the determination of the workers.”
Over the last three months, walkouts have caused major disruptions to public transportation, air travel, sanitation services and schools, and caused petrol shortages with blockages at oil refineries across the country.
Ms Borne responded with a robust defence of the new laws, which were forced through without a vote last week.
“We are coming to the end of the democratic process of this essential reform for our country,” she tweeted. “It is with humility and seriousness that I assumed my responsibility and that of my government.”
The government’s survival on Monday was propped up by the mainstream conservative Les Republicains party, which held the deciding vote.
While Eric Ciotti, the leader, said repeatedly that the party would vote against the motion, the slim margin suggests far more of his deputies broke ranks with his orders than he believed. Overall, 19 members voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.
Though the bill has passed into law, the fight is far from over. Opposition parties have already filed an appeal with the Constitutional Council, which could censure parts or the entirety of the bill if it is deemed unconstitutional.
Though more complicated and less likely to succeed, some have also proposed triggering a referendum, which would require the support of at least 185 parliamentarians and a 10th of electors, or 4.87 million people. The signatures would also have to be collected within nine months.
On Monday, police forces were placed on high alert following four nights of scattered and violent street protests. In Paris, police blocked the bridge connecting Place de la Concorde to the National Assembly building with police vans and a water cannon truck.
At the nearby Jardin des Tuileries, the public garden between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, visitors, many of whom are tourists, were also subject to bag searches and security checks.