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Macron pledges protection to supporters of his pension reform

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged protection to MPs threatened over their support for his pension reform.

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Macron pledges protection to supporters of his pension reform

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged protection to MPs threatened over their support for his pension reform. Earlier that night, the office of the Republican Party leader had been attacked - apparently a threat intended to get the party to block Macron's reform by raising the retirement age.

Party leader Éric Ciotti tweeted a photo of his Nice office. The windows had been smashed with stones. The perpetrators left the words "the motion or the stone," a reference to two motions of no confidence due to be voted on Monday in the National Assembly. Other politicians have also reported vandalism and attempts at intimidation in the past few days because they support the pension reform.

Macron then called the leaders of both houses of parliament on Sunday to reiterate his support for all MPs. The government will do everything it can to protect them, the president's office said.

After weeks of mass protests and strikes, Macron on Friday instructed Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to push through the reform through a special article in the constitution without a vote in parliament. As a result, opposition MPs tabled motions of no confidence in the cabinet. Ciotti had announced his party would not vote for either motion of no confidence - meaning there would not be enough votes to prevent the law from going into effect. In response to the property damage, Ciotti tweeted, "I will never give in to the new disciples of terror."

Enforcing a motion of no confidence is difficult – none has been successful in France since 1962. Macron's centrist alliance still holds the most seats in the National Assembly. The motions for the no-confidence vote were made by the right-wing national Rassemblement National (RN) and the small center party Liot. However, it is considered unlikely that one of the motions will win a majority in the vote and Prime Minister Borne's government will be overthrown.

There will be no majority to bring down the government, Economics Minister Bruno Le Maire told the newspaper Le Parisien. While none of the other opposition parties supports the initiative of the right-wing RN, the left-wing alliance Nupes says it wants to make common cause with Liot. However, their proposal could only become threatening if some members of the conservative Républicains also agreed. The party had supported the reform in principle.

Protests and riots broke out again across France over the weekend. Garbage cans were set on fire, barricades were attempted to be set up and constituency offices of MPs were vandalized.

Many fear that the protests will now intensify. Undoubtedly, the use of Article 49.3 has sparked great anger, said Laurent Frajerman, a specialist on radical movements at BFMTV. But still the protests remained essentially pacifist.

The French unions had warned the government days ago that the protest would become more radical. France's largest refinery near Le Havre has been idle since Friday. The TotalEnergies refinery in Donges near Nantes has been out of operation since March 7th. According to information from the regional newspaper "Ouest-France", further closures could follow by Monday, such as in Lavéra in southern France.

Since the beginning of the year, public life in France has been restricted by protests against the pension reform. This leads to cancellations in train and air traffic, strikes in garbage disposal and in schools. The protests are set to continue. For Thursday (March 23) the unions have again called for a big day of strikes.

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