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French PM deploys constitutional power to force passage of pension reform bill

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-03-17 09:24

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech to announce the use of the article 49.3, a special clause in the French Constitution, to push the pensions reform bill through the lower house of parliament without a vote by lawmakers, at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 16, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

PARIS - French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Thursday activated an article of the country's Constitution that allows the government to force passage of the controversial pension reform bill without a vote at the National Assembly.

"We cannot gamble on the future of our pensions, this reform is necessary," Borne told the National Assembly, where the government does not have an absolute majority.

"Because I am attached to our social model, and because I believe in parliamentary democracy, it is on your reform that I am ready to engage my responsibility," Borne said.

According to Paragraph 3 of Article 49 (49.3) of the French Constitution, the prime minister may, after consulting with the Council of Ministers, impose the adoption of a bill by the National Assembly without a vote. The only way for the National Assembly to veto this is to pass a no-confidence motion against the government.

Just hours after Borne's announcement, major unions in France called on working people in the country to participate in a 9th general mobilization on March 23.

Some 6,000 people demonstrated at Place de la Concorde (Concorde Square) in Paris against the use of Article 49.3 by the government, leading to clashes with security forces and arresting 38.

On Thursday morning, the French Senate adopted the definitive version of the pension reform bill, which will raise the retirement age by two years to 64 from 2027.

A total of 193 French senators voted in favor of the bill, and 114 against. The text had been debated the day before by a joint committee of seven senators and seven members of the National Assembly.

Borne laid out details of the pension reform plan in January, under which the legal retirement age would be progressively raised by three months a year from 62 to 64 by 2030, and a guaranteed minimum pension would be introduced.

Under the plan, as of 2027 at least 43 years of work would be required to be eligible for a full pension.

In 2021, France's expenditure on the pension system equaled 13.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). However, the country's Pensions Advisory Council (COR) said that the share of pension expenditure would rise sharply from 14.2 percent to 14.7 percent between 2027 and 2032, due to a significant contraction in GDP.

In a report published by the COR in September 2022, the pension system watchdog said that from 2022 to 2032, the country's pension system would be in deficit.

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