French govt faces new no-confidence vote over pensions row

France's government will face a no-confidence vote next week after a latest attempt to repeal an unpopular increase in the retirement age prompted left-wing opponents to announce the motion on Thursday.

French govt faces new no-confidence vote over pensions row
French MPs stand a minute of silence after a knife attack in Annecy,. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The pensions overhaul, a flagship measure of President Emmanuel Macron’s second and final term, lifted the retirement age to 64 from 62, sparking the country’s biggest protests in a generation.

The government has already survived multiple no-confidence votes over the pensions overhaul, even though Macron’s centrist party lost its overall majority in the lower-house National Assembly shortly after his re-election last year.

Facing the reform’s potential defeat in the Assembly, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had invoked in March a controversial constitutional mechanism that passed the law without a vote.

Parliament’s speaker Yael Braun-Pivet on Wednesday said she would block on constitutional grounds a move by a small independent faction aimed at repealing the reform with new legislation, prompting the latest attempt to oust the government.

Mathilde Panot, a leading figure in the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI)  party, told reporters that the leftist NUPES alliance submitted a no-confidence vote due to be examined early next week after the “anti-democratic” move.

The LIOT group that tabled the latest challenge to the pensions overhaul withdrew its text on Thursday, after the key article on repealing the retirement age rise was removed.

Panot said “discussions were still ongoing” with LIOT, which had not yet decided whether it would back the initiative.

The no-confidence motion appears to have scant chance of success because the right-wing Les Républicains party is unlikely to back it.

The far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party is also considering tabling a no-confidence motion.

“When a government allows itself to attack the workings of democracy to this extent, it deserves censure,” said its leader Marine Le Pen.

Panot said the NUPES coalition would “never abandon the fight” against the higher retirement age and would continue working towards its common goal of lowering the age to 60.

Thursday’s stormy parliamentary debate on the pension reform was interrupted when news broke of a mass stabbing attack in the Alpine town of Annecy, with MPs holding a minute’s silence in honour of the victims.

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France’s Macron proposes ‘autonomy’ for island of Corsica

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday proposed to give a form of autonomy to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, a region that often chafes at rule from Paris.

France's Macron proposes 'autonomy' for island of Corsica

“We should have the courage to establish a form of autonomy for Corsica within France,” Macron told the island’s parliament in Ajaccio, which is currently controlled by nationalists.

“We would all be failing if we left things as they are,” he added.

Corsica shot to the top of the French political agenda last year when widespread violence broke out over the killing in a mainland prison of Yvan Colonna.

The independence fighter — jailed for life over the 1998 murder of the region’s prefect Claude Erignac — was stabbed to death by another inmate.

Colona’s killing triggered “unbelievable violence that brought Corsica to the brink of widespread conflict”, the island’s executive Gilles Simeoni told the president.

Corsicans have long wanted more say on their own affairs, as well as official status for their language and protection from outsiders buying up land — two thorny requests that Paris is reluctant to grant.

“Corsica must … become the autonomous territory it ought to be,” regional parliament speaker Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis told Macron ahead of his speech.

The island’s young people especially “feel hugely dispossessed”, she added.

Macron vowed to introduce legislation that would “fully anchor Corsica in the French republic, and recognise the uniqueness of its Mediterranean island nature and its relationship with the world”.

He set a deadline of six months for the island’s politicians to reach agreement with Paris on a new law that would change the French constitution to amend Corsica’s status.

“There are no red lines, just the ideals of the republic,” Macron added.