On Monday, the National Assembly will consider two resolutions of no confidence against the government of French President Emmanuel Macron, who bypassed the lower chamber to enact a pension reform that is wildly unpopular.
Though it appears unlikely that Monday’s voting would pass, the motion put up by a moderate party may be close.
The law that is intended to raise the retirement age by two years to 64 would be killed by a successful vote of no confidence in the government.
Violent unrest has erupted and trade unions have promised to intensify strike action, leaving Macron facing the most dangerous challenge to his authority since the “Yellow Vest” protests over four years ago.
“It’s not a failure, it’s a total train wreck,” Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT trade union, told the newspaper Liberation.
To bring down the government, Macron’s opponents require the support of a majority of the 577 lawmakers, in an alliance that would need to span from the hard left to the far right.
The debate began around 4 p.m. (1500 GMT) and was expected to last around an hour and a half, before the votes on the centrist motion of no confidence, backed by a wide number of groups, and another put forward by the far-right National Rally.
“You failed to convince, so you chose the easy way out,” centrist lawmaker Charles de Courson told the government as he opened the debate on the no confidence motions. “You clearly distorted the spirit of the constitution.”
Senior officials from the conservative Les Republicains (LR) party have said they will not back the no-confidence motions, but there are rebels in their ranks.
One of them, Aurelien Pradie, who was ousted as No 2 in the party over his opposition to the legislation, said about 15 LR lawmakers were ready to back the tripartisan motion tabled by de Courson’s centrist party and others – still below the 26 or so needed for the motion to succeed.
“The numbers don’t add up,” another LR rebel, Fabien Di Filippo, told Reuters.
But proponents of the no-confidence vote urged more LR lawmakers to back it. “Don’t be afraid,” centrist MP Bertrand Pancher told LR lawmakers.
“It can come down to just a few votes,” he told Reuters.