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Macron Uses Controversial Constitutional Maneuver to Pass Pension Reforms – What Happens Next?

French President Emmanuel Macron has authorized the use of a controversial constitutional maneuver to bypass parliament and impose his deeply unpopular pensions reform.[0] The move dealt a significant blow to his leadership, as his party lacks an absolute majority in the National Assembly and relies on the support of the conservative Les Républicains party.[1]

The French Senate on Saturday adopted the reform, which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.[2] Following the vote, thousands of people have taken to the streets in opposition to the move. However, Macron’s camp faced a last-gasp scramble to secure enough votes in the assembly, and it appears that the government did not have enough support from the conservative party whose vote was crucial to the passage of the bill.[1]

Since his election in 2017, Macron has been advocating for modifications to France's pension system in order to support the financial stability of an aging population and maintain the nation's competitiveness.[3] The pension reforms have been a key part of his agenda, but polls show that a majority of French people do not want the retirement age to change.[4]

In a last-ditch effort to pass the bill, the government has turned to article 49.3 of the French constitution, enabling the government to push the legislation through without a vote.[5] This move has sparked outrage among protesters and opposition parties, who have painted Macron as an authoritarian.

The use of Article 49.3 comes at a high political price: it deprives Macron and his government of democratic legitimacy, and exposes them to a confidence vote, which they may lose. The government spokesperson and the minister for Parliament Relations have both said: “We do not want 49.3.”[6]

Should the bill be approved, the political consequences of a reform that is unfavorable to the majority of people are unclear for both Macron and the nation as a whole.[7] Surveys indicate that two-thirds of the population in France are against the reform and are in favor of the protest actions that have been organized by trade unions since the start of the year. These unions have been the primary source of resistance.[6] It remains to be seen how the French people will respond to the pension reforms, and whether Macron will be able to survive the backlash.

0. “Macron Government Bypasses France's National Assembly to Pass Pension Overhaul” The Wall Street Journal, 16 Mar. 2023,

1. “French unions urge show of force as Macron's pension overhaul nears finale” CNA, 15 Mar. 2023,

2. “Macron uses special powers to force through plan to raise pension age” The Guardian, 16 Mar. 2023,

3. “Macron's bypasses parliament to raise retirement age with executive powers” The Washington Post, 16 Mar. 2023,

4. “French Senate passes unpopular pension reforms despite mass protests” The Week, 12 Mar. 2023,

5. “Macron invokes nuclear option to push through pensions reform in huge political setback” POLITICO Europe, 16 Mar. 2023,

6. “French Senate approves pension reform plan ahead of National Assembly vote” RFI English, 16 Mar. 2023,

7. “France’s unions have put up one hell of a fight – and sent a message to the rest of Europe” The Guardian, 13 Mar. 2023,

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