STORY: French President Emmanuel Macron's government narrowly survived a no confidence motion in the National Assembly Monday, after bypassing the lower house last week to push through an unpopular overhaul to the pension system.
The outcome was a relief to Macron: a successful no-confidence vote would have sunk his government and killed the legislation, which is set to raise the retirement age by two years to 64.
But the relief could be short-lived.
For one thing, the vote was closer than expected. Some 278 MPs voted in favor of the tripartisan, no-confidence motion, just nine short of the 287 needed for it to succeed.
In addition, unions and protesters have vowed to carry on with strikes and protests against the pension reform.
Macron's government says reform is necessary to keep the pension budget afloat.
Some hard left lawmakers have called on the prime minister to resign.
When she addressed parliament on Monday, angry MPs walked out in protest.
“These are lawmakers who are denying their role in parliament and are claiming that the streets are more legitimate than the institutions.”
After the vote, far-left lawmaker Mathilde Panot said the government has already lost its legitimacy.
“We only needed nine more votes for this motion of no confidence to break this government and its reform – nine votes, as the government is already dead in the eyes of the French people, it no longer has legitimacy, and of course, a prime minister who no longer has legitimacy or power to push through with her reform and who has to resign while bringing away the reform with her.”
Violent unrest has erupted across the country in recent days and trade unions have promised to intensify their strike action, leaving Macron to face the most dangerous challenge to his authority since the "Yellow Vest" uprising over four years ago.
A ninth nationwide day of strikes and protests is scheduled on Thursday.
Opposition parties are also ready to challenge the pension bill in the Constitutional Council, which could decide to strike down some or all of it - if it considers the new law to breach the constitution.