The French Senate passes a controversial pension reform bill. Prime Minister Borne described it as an important step, and believed that the government could obtain a majority vote in Congress.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 195 to 112 on Saturday night. A joint Senate-National Assembly committee will finalize the text of the bill, with both chambers likely to vote on it on Thursday.

Before the Senate passed the bill, people in Paris and other cities took to the streets to demonstrate against the bill, but the number of people was significantly lower than expected. In Paris, protesters threw stones at police officers, set fire to trash cans and smashed windows. Police arrested more than 30 people.

The Interior Ministry said about 368,000 people demonstrated across the country, a sharp drop from the original estimate of 800,000 to 1 million. In Paris, some 48,000 people took to the streets, less than half the police estimate of 100,000.

The government’s reform bill proposes to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, and to receive full benefits after working for 43 years. The trade unions strongly oppose it. President Emmanuel Macron has twice rejected urgent demands by unions to meet in the past week.