‘Two fingers to the French people’ – what the papers said about Macron’s pension decision

France's ongoing pension debacle made headlines around the world, with newspapers describing Macron's decision to force through the bill without a vote as a 'power grab' and 'two fingers to the people' - here's a look at how French and foreign media reported the crisis.

'Two fingers to the French people' - what the papers said about Macron's pension decision
A customer buying a magazine at a newspapers kiosk in France. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

On Thursday afternoon, President Emmanuel Macron’s government used the Article 49.3 tool to push through his controversial pension reform without giving MPs a vote – a move that sparked fury in France, some violent protests and the announcement of more strikes.

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember

Here is how French media responded;

The Communist-linked French daily newspaper L’Humanité showed an image of French president Emmanuel Macron and prime minister Elisabeth Borne with the caption “the arm of honour to the people” – that’s not as nice as it sounds as the expression le bras d’honneur means sticking two fingers up at someone. 

READ MORE: French Expression of the Day: Le bras d’honneur

The centre-left Libération newspaper featured a close-up of the French president with the uncompromising headline – Pensions crisis – his fault.

Paris-based daily Le Parisien goes with ‘The government plays it safe’ (by avoiding a vote on the pensions bill, which it risked losing).

While Le Monde, often referred to as ‘the paper of record’ goes for a straight headline saying ‘The recourse to Article 49.3 accentuates the political crisis’.

The Catholic paper La Croix, made their front page an image of the Assembeé nationale (the French parliament) with the headline “The 49.3 ignites the Assembly”, referring to the controversial Article 49.3 used to ram the legislation through parliament.

Regional newspaper La Voix du Nord, also used an image of parliament with the headline “The [Article] 49.3, and then the fever”.

In the south west, the regional newspaper SudOuest used a similar image from France’s parliament, with the words “The reform, whatever it costs” laid over top the picture, with the phrase quoi qu’il en coute referring to Macron’s pledge to protect the French people from the financial effect of the pandemic “whatever it costs”.

The front page of regional newspaper SudOuest (Screenshot from, photo credit The Local)

To the south, along the border with Spain, regional newspaper La République des Pyrénées used an image of protest crowds for its front page, with the words “Macron at forced march”. The headline is a play on words for the previous name of the Macronist political party, En Marche.

The front page of regional newspaper La Republique des Pyrenees (Screenshot from, photo credit The Local)

But the move didn’t just make headlines in France, media around Europe and beyond have also reported on the use of Article 49.3 to force through the bill, and the protests that followed.

In neighbouring Belgium, the front page of French language newspaper Le Soir showed France’s parliament with the words “The power grab” (le coup de force). 

The front page of Belgian newspaper Le Soir (Screenshot from

The anglophone world has also been watching the political events unfolding in France with interest. The New York Times used a picture from the French parliament as their main image, with the headline Macro decree alters pensions as rage builds.

The front page of American newspaper The New York Times (Screenshot from

In the UK, both the Telegraph and the Guardian featured French pension reform on their front pages.

The front page of UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph (Screenshot from, photo credit The Local)

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France court to rule on Macron pension reform on April 14th

France's highest constitutional authority will rule on President Emmanuel Macron's controversial pension reform on April 14th, it said on Wednesday, a verdict decisive for the future of the changes.

France court to rule on Macron pension reform on April 14th

The reforms were passed by parliament on March 16 after the government used a mechanism to bypass a vote by MPs,  inflaming nationwide protests.

They were considered adopted by parliament when the government survived two no confidence motions on March 20.

But the reforms can only come into law once they are validated by the Constitutional Council, which has the power to strike out some or even all of the legislation if deemed out of step with the constitution.

The council’s members — known as “les sages” (“the wise ones”) — will give two decisions when the ruling is made public on the legislation, whose headline measure raises the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The first will be on whether the legislation is in line with the French constitution.

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember


And the second will be on whether a demand launched by the left for a referendum on the changes is admissible.

In line with government practice for contentious new laws, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne asked the council to rule on the changes on March 21.

But leftwingers in the lower house National Assembly and upper house Senate also asked the council for a ruling, as did far-right MPs in the lower house.

If a referendum was ruled admissible, backers would need to get the signatures of a tenth of the electorate — almost five million people — for it to be called.

The president of the council is Socialist Party grandee Laurent Fabius, a former prime minister who also served as finance minister and foreign minister in his long career.

Its verdict will be a critical juncture in Macron’s battle to impose the legislation, which has seen 10 days of major strikes and protests since January, most recently on Tuesday.

READ MORE: OPINION: In France even riots used to have rules, now political violence is spiralling

New clashes between police and protesters erupted in a movement that has been marked by increasing violence since the government used the constitution’s Article 49.3 to bypass a parliamentary vote and pass the legislation.

Unions have announced a new day of strikes and protests on April 6, just over a week before the council’s decision is announced.

“The absence of a response from the executive has led to a situation of tensions in the country which seriously worries us,” the unions said on Tuesday.