The French government has survived a vote of no confidence but Emmanuel Macron continues to face protests and strikes over his decision to use executive powers to push through an unpopular rise in the pension age.

Although the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, avoided having to instantly resign, the president remains under pressure to break his silence and shore up the government amid growing anger in the streets. Opposition politicians in parliament accused him of arrogance, denying democracy and failing to learn from the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) anti-government protest movement four years ago.

Government insiders, opposition politicians and observers have raised fears that France could see another round of spontaneous, anti-government revolt in cities and small towns – not just over raising the pension age to 64, but also because of distrust in the political system, only a few years after the gilets jaunes movement shook Macron’s first term in office.

Some observers said one option for Macron in the coming weeks could be to replace Borne and reshuffle the government to try to reset his image.

The first no-confidence motion, put forward by Charles de Courson, France’s longest-serving MP and a member of the small opposition centrist grouping Liot, was narrowly defeated — it fell short of the required absolute majority by only nine votes. A total of 278 MPs voted in favour.

The no-confidence motion won the support of politicians from the leftwing grouping, Nupes, as well as Marine Le Pen’s far-right, independents and some MPs from the rightwing Les Républicains.

But this was not enough to topple the government.

Another no-confidence motion tabled by Le Pen’s party was to take place shortly after but was not expected to pass.

If the government wins both votes, Macron’s proposed changes to the pension system are likely to swiftly become law. But France’s constitutional council will be consulted on the law and opposition parties want to petition for a form of referendum. Under Macron’s changes, the minimum general retirement age will rise from 62 to 64, some public sector workers will lose privileges and there will be an accelerated increase in the number of years of work required to qualify for a full pension.

But tensions are likely to continue on the street in the coming days, with a major day of strike action and protests planned for Thursday. Macron is now under pressure to address the nation and clarify how he intends for the government to keep working, and whether there could be a reshuffle. Macron’s centrist grouping lost its absolute majority in elections last June, leaving the government in a weak position.

The no-confidence motions were called in protest at the government using controversial executive powers to push through the pension changes on Thursday without a parliament vote.

Macron had previously decided that the government should use article 49.3 of the constitution to bypass parliament, because he feared he could not garner enough support from lawmakers.

The centrist Courson, presenting the no-confidence motion, told parliament that the government’s move to push through pensions changes without a parliamentary vote was a “denial of democracy”. He said the proposals were unjust and had sparked “tension, worry and anger” in France. Boris Vallaud of the Socialist party said the government had “perverted democracy” and shown “arrogance and disdain” towards parliament, opposition politicians, trade unions and insulted “the intelligence of citizens on their own future.”

Olivier Marleix of the rightwing party, Les Républicains, which the government will probably have to depend upon to pass any future legislation, delivered a blistering speech saying Macron must change his approach to power.

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Marleix said the problem was not changes to the pension system, the problem was Macron himself. He said Macron had divided France during six years in power, leading the country in an “isolated, narcissistic way, impervious to French people’s lives”. He added: “You must heed our warnings if you want to get to the end of your term.” He said Macron had failed to learn from people’s anger during the gilets jaunes protests.

Mathilde Panot of the radical left France Unbowed said French people felt “anger and disgust”. She said that even if the no-confidence failed to pass, Macron “had already lost” because of people protesting in the street.

Laure Lavalette, from Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party, said Macron’s pension changes amounted to an act of unprecedented “social injustice”.

Borne said the pensions changes amounted to a compromise “in the interests of the country” and would protect the social system.

A rare united front of trade unions has led street protests and on-off strikes since January in protest at the pension changes. Polls show two-thirds of the French public are against the pension plan. Since the bill was pushed through without a parliament vote last week, tensions have increased with spontaneous street protests in cities such as Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille, where there were arrests and clashes with the police.

Roadblocks and demonstrations at roundabouts were under way in some parts of France on Monday, including outside Nantes and Lorient. In Rennes, bins were set alight on a highway and cars were stopped. In Clermont Ferrand, the main rail station was briefly blocked.

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