French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a highly unpopular bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 on Thursday by shunning parliament and invoking a special constitutional power.
Lawmakers were shouting, their voices shaking with emotion as Macron made the risky move, which is expected to trigger quick motions of no-confidence in his government. Riot police vans zoomed by outside the National Assembly, their sirens wailing.
The proposed pension changes have prompted major strikes and protests across the country since January. Macron, who made it the flagship of his second term, argued the reform is needed to keep the pension system from diving into deficit as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens.
The decision to invoke the special power was made during a Cabinet meeting at the Elysee presidential palace, just a few minutes before the scheduled vote, because Macron had no guarantee of a majority in France’s lower house of parliament.
Then, as Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tried to formally announce the decision at the National Assembly, leftist members broke into the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, delaying her speech. The speaker had to briefly suspend the session to restore order.