France's Macron faces no-confidence vote as protestors arrested, refinery strikes continue

The French government faces two no confidence motions Monday afternoon over its pension system changes.

France's Macron faces no-confidence vote as protestors arrested, refinery strikes continue

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to attend the National Roundtable on Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry in Paris on March 16, 2023.

Michel Euler | Afp | Getty Images

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron faces a no-confidence vote Monday afternoon, as furious opposition lawmakers contest his decision to force changes to the pension system through parliament without a poll.

Two no-confidence motions have been filed — one by a coalition of centrist and left-wing parties, and a second by the far-right National Rally, which is expected to also back the former.

Analysts told CNBC on Friday that Macron's opponents were unlikely to reach the required 287 out of 577 votes.

But the vote is expected to be tight and could lead to the resignation of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who announced the government's intention to use the special constitutional measure to pass the long-standing plan to raise the retirement age.

If the no-confidence vote fails, the bill will go through and lift the retirement age of most workers from 62 to 64 by 2030.

Much will hinge on how many members of the center-right Les Republicains party break ranks and vote against the government.

The party's deputy leader was fired last month for failing to back Macron's pension reform plan, which passed in the upper house of parliament — the Senate — on March 12. Macron calculated he did not have the votes to see the legislation through the lower house of the National Assembly.

Members of parliament of the left hold placards and sing the Marseillaise, French national anthem, as French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne arrives to deliver a speech on pensions reform bill at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 16, 2023. 

Pascal Rossignol | Reuters

The constituency office of Les Republicains leader Eric Ciotti was pelted with rocks over the weekend, Le Monde reported.

If the administration loses the vote, Macron will appoint a government with a new prime minister or dissolve parliament, triggering elections. This could leave him as a "lame duck for domestic policies for the remainder of his term until 2027," Berenberg economist Holger Schmieding said.

Either way, he will have expended a substantial amount of political capital to achieve his changes, which the government argues are necessary to secure the costly pension system into the future.

A poll published by Elabe on Monday found that 68% of respondents wanted the no-confidence vote to pass, 68% thought that Borne should resign if the motion fails, and 69% believed that using the constitutional measure, called Article 49-3, was a denial of democracy.

Opponents say that the changes will negatively impact womenpublic sector workers and people on lower pay. They also argue that the government is prioritising businesses and people who are highly paid over average laborers.

Workers have been carrying out industrial action since the start of the year, with industrial action ramping up in March.

Refineries around the country have been been on rolling strikes for 13 days, while industrial action by garbage collectors has led to trash piles building up around Paris.

Transport workers and teachers have also held strikes. Unions have vowed to continue action and called for widespread strikes on Thursday.

Protesters seen gathering at Place de la Concorde during a demonstration on March 16.

Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Hundreds of people have been detained, as thousands have marched in protest around the country, Reuters reported.

The parliamentary session to hold the no-confidence votes is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. CET.