French President Emmanuel Macron bypassed parliament and enacted a controversial pension reform package on Thursday, triggering riots and arson on the streets of Paris. The move, which raises France’s retirement age to 64, had already caused months of strikes and protests.
Macron invoked a special constitutional power to pass the bill, immediately before a vote was set to take place. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced the decision in the National Assembly, as opposition lawmakers booed, jeered, and sang.
Under the power invoked by Macron and Borne, the bill is considered passed unless a majority of lawmakers file a motion of no confidence against the government in the next 24 hours. Right-wing leader Marine Le Pen said that her National Rally party would back such a motion, as did a number of leftist leaders.
Macron has argued for months that France’s pension system will go bankrupt unless citizens pump more money into the system. Raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 – which would still see French workers retire earlier than most of their European counterparts – would be a “just and responsible” way to achieve this, he said in January.
France’s trade unions – who have protested the reforms since last year – have argued that the system should instead be buoyed by increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Paris as Macron’s bill was passed. Near parliament buildings, police fired tear gas at the demonstrators and faced off against the crowd in lines.
Rioters set fires and blocked roads throughout the French capital, as groups of masked protesters clashed with riot police.Prior to the bill’s passage, almost half a million people protested in cities across France on Wednesday, according to figures from the Interior Ministry. Police have already made 73 arrests in the capital, Le Figaro reported, citing a police source.
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