france protest oil worker
Oil workers on strike block the access to an oil depot in Fos-sur-Mer, southern France, Tuesday, March 21, 2023
The French government has survived two parliamentary no-confidence votes over President Emmanuel Macron's decision to push through a controversial pension reform bill without lawmakers' approval. The failed motions on Monday were followed by renewed violent unrest overnight.

The first no-confidence motion, tabled by a small group of opposition lawmakers, garnered significant support in the National Assembly, dominated by Macron's centrist alliance. The motion fell just nine votes short of the 287 required to pass. The second motion, put forward by the right-wing National Rally party, was backed by only 94 lawmakers.

Despite failing to pass the motions, some opposition lawmakers urged the government to resign anyway. "The government is already dead in the eyes of the French," left-wing MP Mathilde Panot said after the votes. "It doesn't have any legitimacy anymore."

Comment: She has a point; polls have shown that 52% of people support a 'social explosion' movement against the government, and a few percent more support rolling strikes to bring the country to a standstill.

In wake of the no-confidence votes, France's top police trade union, the SGP Police FO, warned that officers might not be able to contain the ongoing unrest. "We're starting to run out of steam on the police side," the union said, bemoaning the so-called "punch actions" by protesters, such as suddenly blocking roads and causing other disruptions.

The protests apparently lived up to expectations, with assorted chaotic footage emerging overnight. Multiple videos from the French capital city of Paris show barricades erected in the streets, with various objects set on fire.

The police were pictured repeatedly charging the crowds, beating individual protesters, apparently without attempting to detain them.

Comment: The flagrant police brutality really demonstrates just how this movement is a continuation of the two year long Yellow Vest protests.

The unrest is expected to continue across France into the coming days, with trade unions calling for a "maximum mobilization" and a "general strike" expected to kick off as soon as Tuesday.

Macron opted last week to push through the long-debated bill, raising the retirement age in France from 62 to 64, without parliament's approval. The move only further fueled ongoing strife across France, with violent protests raging for weeks as trade unions voiced their opposition to the proposed measure.

The bill, however, is still pending a review by the Constitutional Council before it can be signed into law. While the body has powers to dismiss certain articles within a bill, should it deem them to be unconstitutional, the council rarely actually does so.

French MPs threatened with guillotine ahead of crucial vote

French politicians are being threatened with the guillotine if they attempt to protect President Emmanuel Macron's government from a pair of no-confidence votes in Parliament, according to a handful of MPs who claimed to have received death threats over the weekend. Police told French media that hundreds of such messages had been sent to lawmakers ahead of Monday's vote.

MP Agnes Evren, vice president of the Republican Party, posted an image of a death threat that she said was sent to her on Sunday, which vowed "your heads will fall," calling for "the guillotine for your face" for supporting Macron.

"These extremists refuse debate, have no respect for their political adversaries and are openly inspired by the Terror," she tweeted, referring to the period of bloody executions that followed the French Revolution of 1789. Urging her followers not to "underestimate the danger," she vowed to file a complaint for every such threat received.

Evren reassured French broadcaster BFMTV on Saturday that only four or five of her party's members would vote against Macron, far less than the 30 Republicans the no-confidence measure would require to succeed.

"We are receiving 200, 300, 400 [harassing] emails, day and night," Republican MP Frederique Meunier told BFMTV. "We have the impression that tomorrow they will decapitate us. It's terrible."

Republican leader Eric Ciotti's campaign headquarters in Nice were allegedly vandalized on Sunday. A paving stone was thrown through the window and the words "the motion or the stone" were spray-painted on the wall in reference to the no-confidence motion being debated on Monday. However, Ciotti doubled down on an earlier promise that no Republican deputy would vote against the government, vowing not to "give in to the new terror."

Two Renaissance MPs claimed they had found threatening graffiti, including a hangman's sign, outside their offices as the protests raged on this past weekend.

Opposition lawmakers from both left and right filed no-confidence motions in Parliament on Friday in response to Macron's decision to ram the pension reform through the National Assembly without a vote on Thursday. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne's announcement that no vote would be held on the measure elicited a chorus of "guillotine the dictator" from the audience in Parliament.

While strikes and protests had already gripped France in the weeks preceding the planned vote, the move set off several nights of violent riots and demonstrations as thousands thronged the streets of Paris, Lyon, and other major cities and burned Macron and other officials in effigy.