French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday won approval from the upper house Senate for his controversial pensions reform, ahead of an expected knife-edge vote later in the day in the lower house National Assembly
A proposed reform of France’s pension system, which has sparked massive protests and strikes since the start of the year, is poised for a final vote in parliament on Thursday in a decisive moment for President Emmanuel Macron.
The Senate adopted the legislation to raise the retirement age to 64 on Thursday morning, but a ballot in the lower house National Assembly scheduled for the afternoon is seen as extremely tight.
Macron’s alliance lost its parliamentary majority last year, forcing the government to count on conservative lawmakers to pass the bill. Leftists and far-right lawmakers are strongly opposed and conservatives are divided, making the outcome unpredictable.
The French leader wants to raise the retirement age so workers put more money into the system, which the government says is on course to run a deficit. If he can’t get a majority vote in parliament, he has constitutional authority to impose the unpopular legislation unilaterally.
Macron has promoted the pension changes as central to his vision for making the French economy more competitive. Unions remained combative late Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to vote against the plan and denouncing the government’s legal shortcuts to move the bill forward as a dangerous “denial of democracy.”
Nearly 500,000 people protested against the bill around the country Wednesday. Students planned to march to seat of the National Assembly on Thursday as garbage workers kept up a strike that has caused trash to pile up around the French capital.
Macron “wishes” to have a vote proceed at the National Assembly, his office said following a Wednesday night strategy session with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and ministers in charge of the bill.
Labor minister Olivier Dussopt, speaking after the Senate’s vote, acknowledged the government still has no guarantee that the text a reconciliation committee approved Wednesday will command a majority at the lower house.