Emmanuel Macron failed a critical parliamentary test on Thursday and chose to override lawmakers to pass his unpopular plan to raise the retirement age by decree, risking backlash on the streets and a political crisis.
The decision to override lawmakers shows the government was unable to convince opposition MPs to back the controversial reform, a central promise Macron made in his re-election campaign, which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Prime minister Élisabeth Borne announced the decision on the floor of the National Assembly after consulting Macron at the Élysée on Thursday.
“We cannot take the risk to see so many hours of parliamentary work go to waste, or take a bet on the future of our retirement system,” Borne told lawmakers, some of whom shouted her down and sang the national anthem. “This reform is needed.”
The decree allows opposition parties to respond with no-confidence motions, and several, including Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party, have indicated that they will file them.
If the no-confidence motion is supported by a majority of MPs, then the government would fall and the law would not pass.
“This is a political crisis,” said Le Pen. “This is a total failure for the government and Emmanuel Macron personally, and the government must be sanctioned. It has lost the confidence of this assembly and the population.”
Nearly three-quarters of the public are opposed to raising the retirement age, according to polls, and millions have turned up at protests, not only in Paris and big cities but also in small towns.
This week, walkouts by bin collectors left 7,000 tonnes of rubbish on the streets of Paris, trains and flights were disrupted, and workers at nuclear power plants dialled down electricity production.