President Emmanuel Macron has shunned the French Parliament and opted to push through a highly unpopular pension reform bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The French leader wants to raise the retirement age so workers put more money into the system, which the government says is on course to run a deficit.
On Thursday, his administration used a special constitutional power amid calls for a no-confidence motion from the opposition – a move that is being met with protests in Paris.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne triggered a special procedure to push the bill through the National Assembly without a vote, provoking shouts and chants from left-wing lawmakers brandishing placards against the reform that read “No to 64 years”.
The move, using Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, will ensure the bill is adopted, but it shows Macron and his government failed to garner enough of a majority in parliament.
The country’s far-right opposition has said it will file a motion of no-confidence in the government.
The decision is a “total failure” for Macron and Borne “cannot stay” in her post, said Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate in the last two presidential elections, who now leads National Rally (RN) deputies in parliament.
The bill is the flagship legislation of Macron’s second term. The unpopular plan has prompted major strikes and protests across the country since January.
“Forcing through a bill by decree is something that’s done rarely and it is seen as something of a failure of politics in many respects,” said Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from outside the French Parliament.
Butler said protesters and trade unions have said no matter what happens, they would continue to rally against the bill.