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(Photo by BENOIT TESSIER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 12:19 PM PT – Thursday, March 16, 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron has ignored Parliament and used a rare constitutional prerogative to enforce an unpopular measure that raised the retirement age from 62 to 64 on Thursday.

Macron has chosen to adopt his unpopular pension reform without submitting it to a vote by deputies which triggered lawmakers and angered French citizens all around the country.

Since January, numerous strikes and rallies have been held across the nation in response to the proposed pension changes. The reform, according to Macron who made it the centerpiece of his second term, is necessary to prevent the pension system from going into deficit as France’s population ages and life expectancy rises.

Due to Macron’s uncertainty over a majority in France’s lower House of Parliament, the decision to exercise the exceptional power was decided during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential residence of the Elysee just a few minutes prior to the scheduled vote.

Chaos ensued as the French national song was started by socialist assembly members, preventing Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne from making her formal announcement. To regain control, the speaker had to short pause the meeting.

“Today, there’s uncertainty” about whether a majority would have voted for the bill “by just a few votes,” Borne explained. “We cannot take the risk to see 175 hours of parliamentary debate collapse … We cannot gamble on the future of our pensions. That reform is necessary.”

As they left the Assembly, opposition MPs demanded the government resign one by one. The presidency had been compared by one Communist lawmaker to a political “guillotine” while some others referred to it as a “denial of democracy” that shows Macron is not legitimate. To add, a union head referred to it as “institutional violence” and urged for additional strikes and demonstrations.

It was reported that over hundreds of people spontaneously assembled in a rally at the city’s Place de la Concorde. Among them were transport workers, energy workers, dockers, teachers and public sector workers, including museum staff. The leader of the hardline CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said rushing through the measure “shows disrespect towards the people.”

In the city of Dijon, demonstrators burned mannequins with the effigy of Emmanuel Macron, Elisabeth Borne, Olivier Veran and Olivier Dussopt.

Emmanuel Macron’s official residence the ”Fort de Brégançon” was deprived of electricity by striking electricians.

Marine Le Pen said her far-right National Rally Party would file a no-confidence motion. After the meeting, she expressed her displeasure of the French president.

“I never expected anything from Emmanuel Macron, who decided, during his two terms, to govern with brutality. However, to be President of the Republic is to seek the happiness of the French people and obviously, this is definitely not his objective,” La Pen said.

The reform, according to trade unions, will penalize low-income workers in manual tasks who frequently begin their careers young and force them to put in longer hours than graduates, who will be less impacted by the reforms.

The administration has stated that in order to prevent significant deficits from growing, it is necessary to raise the retirement age, eliminate advantages for some employees of the public sector, and tighten the requirements for receiving a full pension.

With the shift, France would be in line with its neighbors in Europe, the majority of whom have increased the retirement age to 65 or higher.

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