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Macron’s High-Stakes Pension Reform: Bypassing Parliament and Risking the Government for a Second Term

President Emmanuel Macron of France took drastic action to force through his controversial pension reform Thursday, invoking a constitutional provision that allowed him to bypass parliamentary approval and raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.[0] The government had feared it could not secure a majority of MPs to vote in favor of the reform, and thus resorted to the rarely used Article 49.3 of the constitution.[1]

The move set off a clamor among lawmakers, many of whom began singing the national anthem even before Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne arrived in the lower chamber.[2] Macron and his proponents argued that the reform was necessary to save the country's pension system from going bankrupt.[3]

However, the decision to trigger Article 49.3 of the French constitution is widely seen as a risky move, as it allows MPs to submit motions of no-confidence within 24 hours.[3] Borne's government would be obliged to step down if more than half of the Members of Parliament back the proposal in a vote.[4] This means that the French president has put his own government at risk in order to save the pension system.

Protests have broken out across the city of Paris in response to the reform, and opposition parties have called for a vote of no-confidence in the government on Monday.[3] For the vote to pass, it would require large numbers of MPs from the rightwing party Les Républicains to back it.[1] The party has declared that they will not take such action, and the government has withstood all efforts to pass a no-confidence vote in the recent months.[1]

The high stakes of the pension reform have been made clear, as Macron has pinned his bid for a second term in office on his promises to reform France’s pensions system.[4] The French president now faces a difficult battle to maintain democratic legitimacy, as he attempts to pass the bill without parliamentary approval.

0. “Macron's Pension Push May Herald the End of His Domestic Agenda” Bloomberg, 16 Mar. 2023,

1. “French anger spreads after Macron forces pension age rise” The Guardian, 17 Mar. 2023,

2. “France's Macron risks his government to raise retirement age” FRANCE 24 English, 17 Mar. 2023,

3. “What's Happening in France? Videos Show Paris Burning in Protest” Newsweek, 16 Mar. 2023,

4. “Macron’s defiant show of force in parliament exposes a weakened president” POLITICO Europe, 16 Mar. 2023,

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