Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has been facing a backlash from the public and opposition parties due to his move to bypass a parliamentary vote on the pensions bill.

The controversial pension reform proposed by Macron’s government seeks to merge the country’s 42 separate pension schemes into a single, universal points-based system. The reform aims to address the current pension deficit and ensure greater fairness and simplicity in the system.

However, the proposed reform has been met with strong opposition from trade unions, who argue that it will undermine the current pension system and lead to a reduction in benefits for workers.

In December 2019, France was paralysed by widespread strikes and protests against the proposed reform, with transport and public services severely disrupted for weeks.

Despite the opposition, Macron’s government moved ahead with the reform, and in February 2020, the bill was presented to parliament for debate and a vote.

However, instead of waiting for the parliamentary process to run its course, Macron’s government invoked a constitutional clause to fast-track the bill without a vote. This move has sparked outrage among opposition parties, who accuse the government of bypassing democratic procedures and undermining the role of parliament, as the decision to use an executive decree known as “49-3” was made.

The use of the 49-3 decree has also led to a split within Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) party, with some members publicly criticising the decision to bypass parliament. The move has also raised questions about Macron’s leadership style and his commitment to the democratic process.

During a Cabinet meeting in which Macron was not present, prime minister Élisabeth Borne was met with jeers when she invoked the controversial decree a few minutes before a scheduled vote, where the legislation had no guarantee of securing majority support. The Senate adopted the bill earlier Thursday.

The reform has for the past three years sparked protests across the country, with thousands taking to the streets in major cities like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. The protests have been marked by clashes between protesters and police, with tear gas and water cannons used to disperse crowds.

This week, thousands gathered in protest at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, just outside the National Assembly building. The trade unions that had organised strikes and marches this week against a higher retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the days ahead.

“This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers,” they told local newspapers.

Necessary to address growing pension deficit

The pension reform is a key part of Macron’s economic agenda, and the government argues that it is necessary to address the country’s growing pension deficit. The government has also said that the reform will create a fairer and more transparent system that will benefit all workers.

However, the opposition argues that the reform will lead to a reduction in benefits for many workers, particularly those in the public sector, and that it will undermine France’s welfare state. They have called for the government to withdraw the reform and to engage in a dialogue with unions and other stakeholders to find a more equitable solution.

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