France’s Macron to Face No-Confidence Votes Over Pension Overhaul

PARIS—French President Emmanuel Macron faced a second consecutive day of violent protests as opposition lawmakers called for no-confidence votes early next week aimed at bringing down his government and killing his overhaul of France’s pension system. 
A group of centrist lawmakers opposed to Mr. Macron filed a no-confidence motion on Friday with the backing of at least 58 members of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. Far-right National Rally also put forward its own no-confidence motion against the government on Friday.
The moves came less than 24 hours after Mr. Macron’s government invoked special constitutional powers to pass an increase in France’s retirement age without approval from the 577-member National Assembly.
Police late Friday clashed again with protesters in the Place de la Concorde, firing tear gas to disperse crowds, after detaining more than 300 people a day earlier when rioters torched cars and blockaded roads.
Hundreds of protesters momentarily blocked the ring road in Paris, while a few dozen people flooded onto the tracks at the main railway station of Bordeaux, in southwestern France. A few thousand protesters took to the streets in Rennes, a city in the West of France. Unions are calling for new nationwide demonstrations on March 23.
The no-confidence motion spearheaded by the centrist group drew backing from the NUPES—a left-leaning coalition of socialists, communists and greens. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said NUPES on Friday decided to vote in favor of the centrists’ motion instead of filing its own to boost its chances of passing.
Whether the center-left alliance will have enough votes in the National Assembly to topple Mr. Macron’s government depends on other lawmakers backing the measure. 
Marine Le Pen, the leader of National Rally, the largest opposition party in the National Assembly, has said her party would vote for any no-confidence vote brought against the Macron government.
The Macron government’s survival is likely to hinge on Les Républicains, France’s establishment conservative party. Les Républicains lawmakers hold the balance of power in a National Assembly chamber that is highly divided.
The leader of Les Républicains, Eric Ciotti, supports raising the retirement age and has said he won’t back a no-confidence motion. A group of dissident members within the party, however, opposes Mr. Macron’s plan, and it remains unclear how many of them will vote for the motions. At least 27 of the 61 Les Républicains lawmakers who sit in the National Assembly would need to vote against the government to force it to resign.
Mr. Macron’s pro-business Renaissance party has 170 seats in the National Assembly and is part of a larger coalition that includes center-right parties and whose total seats add up to 250.
Ms. Le Pen sought to turn up the pressure on conservatives, saying a refusal to support the no-confidence vote would signal they support the pension bill, which is largely unpopular with the French and has spurred nearly two months of nationwide protests.
“All the lawmakers of Les Républicains who will not vote for censure will in fact let the pension reform pass,” Ms. Le Pen wrote in a Twitter post Friday.
Mr. Macron’s push to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 is the centerpiece of his plan to revamp the country’s pension system.
The overhaul was one of the main planks of Mr. Macron’s re-election campaign last year. He has argued that it is the only way to preserve France’s pension system without raising taxes or increasing the country’s debt.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt said in September that if a no-confidence vote succeeded, Mr. Macron would dissolve the National Assembly, triggering fresh parliamentary elections. That has sent a chill through the ranks of Les Républicains, which is in the middle of an identity crisis.
Asked on Thursday by reporters whether he would vote in favor of the no-confidence motion put forward by the centrist group, Les Républicains lawmaker Aurélien Pradié said: “I don’t rule it out.”

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