Wooden pallets burn during a protest against the pension reform bill at Place de la Concorde, near the French National Assembly, in Paris, March 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla)

PARIS (AP) — Protesters blocked traffic in Paris on Friday as angry critics, political opponents and unions across France denounced President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to impose a bill deferring the age of retirement from 62 to 64 in Parliament without a vote.

Opposition parties are expected to begin a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government later today. The vote could take place early next week.

Macron on Thursday ordered Borne to exercise special constitutional power to push the unpopular pension reform through without a vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament.

His calculated risk angered opposition lawmakers, many citizens and trade unions. Thousands of people demonstrated Thursday in the Plaza de la Concordia, in front of the Assembly. As night fell, police charged at protesters in waves to clear the scene. Small groups then moved to nearby streets in the elegant Champs-Élysées district, where they set street fires.

Similar scenes were repeated in many other cities, from Rennes and Nantes, in the east of the country, to Lyon and the port city of Marseille, in the south, where the windows of many shops and bank offices were smashed. , according to French media. .

Speaking to RTL radio on Friday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 310 people had been arrested overnight and the majority of the arrests, 258, had taken place in Paris.

The unions which have organized strikes and marches against the government’s plan have said that in the coming days there will be more mobilizations. “This pension reform is brutal, unfair, unjustified for the working world,” they said.

Macron has made changes to the pension system the top priority in his second term, saying the reform is needed to prevent the fund from running into a deficit as France, like many other wealthy countries, faces falling pensions. birth rate and an increase in life expectancy.

The president decided to invoke the special power at a government meeting held minutes before the scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where there was no guarantee it would continue. The Senate had given the green light to the measure before Thursday.

The opposition demanded the resignation of the government. If the motion of no confidence goes ahead, for which an absolute majority of the chamber is necessary, it would be the first successful since 1962 and would force the departure of the executive, in addition to the withdrawal of the plan.

Macron could re-elect Borne, if he wishes, and a new government would be appointed. If the motion is rejected, the pension reform will be deemed to have been approved.

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