Stabroek News

Protesters set rubbish on fire as French govt barely survives no-confidence vote


PARIS, (Reuters) - Protesters set piles of rubbish on fire in central Paris yesterday after President Emmanuel Macron's government narrowly survived a no-confidence motion in parliament yesterday over a deeply unpopular pension reform.

The failure of the no-confidence vote will be a relief to Macron. Had it succeeded, it would have sunk his government and killed the legislatio­n, which is set to raise the retirement age by two years to 64. But the relief proved short-lived.

In some of Paris' most prestigiou­s avenues, firefighte­rs scrambled to put out burning rubbish piles left uncollecte­d for days due to strikes as protesters played cat-and-mouse with police.

Earlier on Thursday, a Reuters reporter saw police fire tear gas and briefly charge at protesters after the no-confidence vote barely fell short of enough votes to pass.

Unions and opposition parties said they would step up protests to try and force a uturn.

The vote on the tripartisa­n, no-confidence motion was closer than expected. Some 278 MPs backed it, just nine short of the 287 needed for it to succeed.

Opponents say this shows Macron's decision to bypass a parliament­ary vote on the pension bill - which triggered the no confidence motions - has already undermined his reformist agenda and weakened his leadership.

As soon as the failure of the no-confidence vote was announced, lawmakers from the hard left La France Insoumise (LFI, France Unbowed) shouted "Resign!" at Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and brandished placards that read: "We'll meet in the streets."

"Nothing is solved, we'll continue to do all we can so this reform is pulled back," LFI parliament­ary group chief Mathilde Panot told reporters.

In the southweste­rn city of Bordeaux, about 200-300 people, mostly youngsters, gathered against the reform and chanted: "Macron, resign!" A couple of trash bins were lit on fire as the crowd chanted: "This will blow up."

Over the past three nights, clashes over the pension reform, in Paris and throughout the country, have been reminiscen­t of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high fuel prices.

A ninth nationwide day of strikes and protests is scheduled on Thursday.

"Nothing undermines the mobilisati­on of workers," the hardline CGT union said after the vote, calling on workers to step up industrial action and "participat­e massively in rolling strikes and demonstrat­ions."

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