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The National Assembly approves French pension reform plan

President Nicolas Sarkozy's controversial pension reform has passed its final parliamentary hurdle. The Constitutional Council is now to examine the bill, while unions have vowed to continue strikes and demonstrations.

Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy refuses to give in to strikes and popular protests

France's National Assembly has given its final approval to the government's controversial pension reform plan.

The Senate had approved the final text of the bill on Tuesday. The legislation would increase the country's minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 while the full pension age is to be raised from 65 to 67.

Wednesday's vote was the last parliamentary hurdle on the way of the reform plan becoming law.

The lower house of parliament passed the bill by a vote of 338 to 233 despite weeks of nationwide strikes that have threatened to bring France to a standstill.

Work stoppages that began on Oct. 12 to protest against the pension reform have forced the closure of petrol refineries and disrupted the country's transport network and cost France an estimated three billion euros.

Unions have called for strikes to continue on Thursday but disruptions are not expected to be on the scale off last week.

French demonstrators

Thousands have taken to the streets to protest

Constitutional Council to examine the bill

The opposition Socialist Party has said it would lodge an appeal with France's Constitutional Council, which will have to rule on whether the reform is legal.

Unless the reform is rejected by the court, President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to sign the bill by mid-November.

The law is to begin coming into force by the middle of 2011, but the review isn't scheduled to be completed until 2013. Therefore, the elections in 2012 are expected to largely focus on the controversial legislation, which has been spearheaded by Sarkozy and his conservative UMP party.

Sarkozy's popularity ratings have nosedived in recent weeks. Polls indicate that he currently has the support of no more than 30 percent of French voters.

Last week's strike action and demonstrations against the pension reform plan, however, were backed by a majority of those polled.

Author: Andreas Illmer (dpa, AFP, AP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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