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Members of parliament hold placards after the result of the vote on the first motion of no-confidence against the French government at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 20, 2023.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What We’re Watching: Slim win for Macron, protests in South Africa, Trump’s legal woes, Colombia peace collapsing?

Macron’s narrow escape

It came down to the wire, but Emmanuel Macron’s government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in France’s National Assembly on Monday, with 278 voting to topple the government, nine votes shy of the threshold needed to pass.

Quick recap: The motion was triggered after Macron used a constitutional provision last week -- bypassing a vote in the lower house -- to pass a controversial pension reform despite weeks of protests (more on that here).

Not only do 70% of French adults abhor Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62 by 2030 – which he says is necessary to plug the growing debt hole – but the French electorate, which has long had a libertarian streak, is also furious that the government used what it says is an anti-democratic loophole to pass the measure.

Macron’s troubles are only just beginning. Hundreds were arrested in Paris over the weekend and on Monday as anti-government protests turned violent and smelly. Unions have called for nationwide demonstrations and strikes in a bid to pressure the government to roll back the measures (which will never happen).

Prime Minister Élizabeth Borne will likely take the fall and resign. Still, Macron, already unpopular before this debacle, will emerge a diminished political figure. After previously saying he understood that people were “tired of reforms which come from above,” it will be very hard for the ideological chameleon to regain the trust of vast swathes of the population.

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Will Marine Le Pen's rebrand help her win?

Many people know a few basic facts about Marine Le Pen, head of France's far-right National Rally party. They know that she is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of her party's predecessor, the National Front, known mainly for xenophobia and anti-semitism. They know that she is firmly anti-immigration and adopts a harsh view of what she calls "the rise of Islamism." Marine Le Pen has built a political identity based on these appeals.

But recently, Le Pen has tried to rebrand her image in order to win votes ahead of France's upcoming presidential elections in April 2022. What is Le Pen trying to change, and how might this impact her electoral prospects?

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French politics heat up over "civil war" letter
French politics heat up over "civil war" letter | EU & the Balkans | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

French politics heat up over "civil war" letter

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?

Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.

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US donates vaccines to India; Macron v Le Pen; EU tourism
US Donates Vaccines; Macron v Le Pen; EU Tourism | World In :60 | GZERO Media

US donates vaccines to India; Macron v Le Pen; EU tourism

Ian Bremmer answers this week's questions on the biggest stories in global politics:

The United States says it will now donate 60 million COVID doses. Who are they going to?

Well, they're not COVID doses, because we don't want to give people coronavirus. They're vaccines. It's AstraZeneca, which we don't need in the United States. We haven't even approved yet. They are somewhat less effective than Moderna and Pfizer, but they're damned effective and you should take them, and they're going almost exclusively to India. And that is fully appropriate because India, we know about 350,000 cases a day. In reality, if you look at the positivity rates and level of disclosure, it's probably five to 10x that. This is by far the largest epicenter of the coronavirus crisis to date in the world. But they're not going to be getting these doses until probably June. And meanwhile, they're under very serious trouble right now. And there's a lot of recrimination, central government, local governments. The US has been slow. We should've made this announcement frankly a month ago, but I'm glad we're doing it.

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What We're Watching: Le Pen on the rise, big leak in Iran, bad omen for Japan's LDP

Why is Marine Le Pen gaining momentum in France? "Each time France is hit by terrorism, the extreme right benefits," one French journalist told the Times Friday after an immigrant from Tunisia, who had been in the country illegally for a decade, fatally stabbed a French policewoman on the outskirts of Paris. After the attack, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party, called for illegal immigrants to be "expelled" and for the "eradication of Islamism." As France continues to suffer from a series of Islamist terror attacks, polls show that Le Pen's hardline views on immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment are resonating with many mainstream voters. That's in part because France has suffered more terror attacks in recent years than any other Western country. Le Pen's electoral prospects are also getting help from President Macron's dismal performance: his approval rating has plummeted (he now has a 60 percent disapproval rating) because of perceptions that his government has botched the pandemic response and the vaccine rollout. Trying to appeal to the center-right before the attack, Macron vowed to uphold "the right to a peaceful life," and after Friday's killing said his government would get tough on "Islamist terrorism." But the opposition said the president's words are tokenistic and don't go nearly far enough. With just a year until the next presidential election, Le Pen is seizing the moment while Macron is mired in a deepening political crisis.

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US sanctions on Russia don't hit hard; Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty
US Sanctions on Russia Don't Hit Hard | Nicolas Sarkozy Found Guilty | World In :60 | GZERO Media

US sanctions on Russia don't hit hard; Nicolas Sarkozy found guilty

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (a little over) 60 Seconds:

The Biden administration announced its first sanctions. How will it affect US-Russia relations?

Not very much. About as bad as they were under the Trump administration, even though Trump personally wanted to be aligned with Putin, the administration was not. This is the same approach on sanctions as we've seen from the European Union, they could go a lot harder. It's not sector level. It's not major state enterprises. It's a few Russian officials that were involved in the chemical program for Russia. And at the end of the day, the Russians are annoyed, but they're not going to hit back. That's that. Okay.

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