20232003 no france
Members of National Assembly parliamentary group La France Insoumise (LFI) and left-wing coalition NUPES (New People's Ecologic and Social Union) hold signs reading "64 is a no", "See you in the street" next to France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne (1R) and French Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt (2R) after the vote of one motion of no confidence at the French National Assembly Image Credit: AFP

Paris: President Emmanuel Macron's government narrowly survived a no confidence motion in the National Assembly on Monday, after bypassing the lower house to push through a deeply unpopular change to the pension system.

Some 278 MPs voted in favour of a tripartisan, no confidence motion tabled by a centrist party and others, just nine short of the 287 needed for it to succeed.

The outcome will be a relief to Macron, because a successful no-confidence vote would have sunk the government and killed the legislation, which is set to raise the retirement age by two years to 64.

But he still faces significant headwinds.

For one thing, the centrist president's failure to find enough support in parliament to put his pension reform to a vote has undermined his reformist agenda and weakened his leadership.

Barclays analysts said the government would remain in place, "although it would be significantly weakened, while social protests against the reform would likely continue for some weeks, which could negatively affect the French economy." Unions and protesters, angry with the reform and with the fact that the pension reform was adopted without a vote, said they would carry on with strikes and protests, with the support of many in the opposition.

As soon as the narrow failure of the vote was announced, lawmakers from the hard left La France Insoumise (LFI, France Unbowed) shouted "Resign!" at Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and brandished placards that read: "We'll meet in the streets." "Nothing is solved, we'll continue to do all we can so this reform is pulled back," LFI parliamentary group chief Mathilde Panot told reporters.

Violent unrest has erupted across the country and trade unions have promised to intensify their strike action, leaving Macron to face the most dangerous challenge to his authority since the "Yellow Vest" uprising over four years ago.

A ninth nationwide day of strikes and protests is scheduled on Thursday.

"We'll meet again on Thursday," Helene Mayans, of the hard-left CGT union, said at a rally in Paris.

Opposition parties will also challenge the bill in the Constitutional Council, which could decide to strike down some or all of it - if it considers it breaches the constitution.

A second motion of no confidence, tabled by the far-right National Rally (RN), had no chance of going through later on Monday as other opposition parties said they would not vote for it.