French Pension Reform Opponents Push For Repeal Bill But Are Unlikely to Succeed

(AP) -- Opponents of French President Emmanuel Macron's retirement reform have tried mass protests, damaging strikes and constitutional challenges to stop it. Now they are trying one last move: a new bill to repeal it.

But Macron's centrist party is trying to outmaneuver the opposition, whose proposal has almost no chance of success.

On Thursday French lawmakers are debating an opposition bill which aims to return the retirement age to 62 -- it went up to 64 with Macron's unpopular reform. Legislators from centrist opposition group LIOT proposed the text, supported by leftists and the far-right.

Macron's centrist party doesn't have a majority in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, but it has allied with some Republican lawmakers to push back the opposition's efforts.

As a result, the key article stipulating the retirement age was removed from the bill when it was reviewed by the Social Affairs Committee last week.

Opposition lawmakers planned to restore the previous retirement age via an amendment Thursday. However, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Yael Braun-Pivet, a member of Macron's party, declared it unconstitutional because there was no financial provision to cover the cost.

Opposition lawmakers may seek other options during Thursday's expected heated debate.

They also vowed to prompt a confidence vote that would be held in the coming days. Macron's government survived previous confidence votes.

Macron's move to raise the retirement age -- and force the measure through parliament without a vote -- inflamed public emotions and triggered some of France's biggest demonstrations in years. But the intensity of anger over the pension reform has ebbed since the last big protests on May 1, and since the measure became law in April.

Turnout at protests on Tuesday in Paris and across France was lower than at previous demonstrations.

In recent weeks, Macron has sought to focus public attention on some other changes he promised to re-industrialize France, improve working conditions and finalize a new immigration bill. Yet with no majority at parliament, his government is expected to keep struggling to pass any measure.