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Macron’s Pension Reform Upheld by French Supreme Court

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France’s constitutional court approved pension reforms for President Emmanuel Macron, rejecting a proposal to hold a referendum on the matter on Friday.

The Constitutional Council ratified the bill amendment in legislation to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 after nearly three months of protests against the measure.

The court overturned six measures not considered essential to the essence of the reform and rejected a request by the left to hold a referendum on an alternative pension law that keeps the retirement age at 62.

But the manner in which the legislation was passed — in the face of opposition from two out of three electors, trade unions and a majority of MPs in the National Assembly — has dismayed sympathetic observers before.

Pierre Rosenfallon, a well-respected sociologist and historian, issued a stark warning in early April that Macron needed to restore the legitimacy of his presidential office in the eyes of voters.

“Without this, the time of revolutions may return, otherwise there will be an accumulation of toxic discontent that will open the way for far-right populism,” the center-left thinker told Liberation newspaper.

As the political historian Jan Garrigs writes, “all our institutional institutions, all our political figures have been discredited” by the manner in which the Reformation was passed.

“The connection between our citizens and their national representatives has widened in this crisis, as it was during the yellow vests,” Garrigues wrote in Le Monde, referring to the fierce anti-Macron protests in 2018.

Criticism focused in particular on how the president’s minority government pushed the legislation through parliament on March 16 without a vote.

The move – legal but hardly democratic – came after other constitutional measures were taken to keep parliamentary debate to a minimum, deepening the anger felt by protesters who have taken to the streets almost every week since January.

The sometimes violent protests peaked at 1.28 million people on March 7, according to official counts, the largest in a generation.

“This protest movement will leave a mark in the history of our country, through its scale and the new people who have joined it,” CFDT’s moderate leader Laurent Berger told reporters as he marched – for the twelfth time since January. – Thursday.

He reiterated that the country was facing a “democratic crisis”.

no crunch

In his only media interview on the issue of pensions since his election to a second term last April, Macron acknowledged that he and his government had failed to win the battle of public opinion.

When asked if he had any regrets, he told TF1: “If I have anything, it is that we have not always succeeded in convincing people of the necessity of this reform, which I am not happy about.”

But he remained convinced that it was “necessary” and for the greater good of the country – to avoid a pension deficit expected to reach €13.5 billion by 2030, and to bring the country in line with its EU neighbours.

Moreover, it was considered legitimate given that he was re-elected on a platform that included pension reform and a pledge to make France “work more” to pay for one of the most expensive welfare systems in the world.

However, some allies had warned him in advance of the dangers of raising the retirement age in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis and so soon after COVID-19.

Speaking in China last week, he hit back at critics.

“We cannot call it a democratic crisis when an elected president … seeks to implement a policy that was proposed democratically,” he told reporters in off-the-record remarks published in French media.

“If people wanted to retire at 60, then they shouldn’t have elected me as president,” he said.

new republic?

Talk of crisis and revolution comes amid gathering evidence of waning faith in French democracy.

A widely monitored annual poll published in February by the Cevipof Politics Institute at Sciences Po in Paris found that two out of three people (64%) think French democracy is “not good”.

A higher percentage had negative feelings towards politicians (72%) and still more (82%) believed that politicians do not share their priorities.

Pension reform has also revived debate about whether the existing constitution, the basis of the modern Fifth Republic, is suitable for this purpose.

Approved during the National Emergency and shaped by wartime hero Charles de Gaulle, it created an executive presidency with powers higher than any other Western European chancellor or prime minister’s office.

“This constitution, which grants absolutely brutal and authoritarian powers to the ruling power, collides with a society that no longer tolerates decisions that are seen as excessively top-down,” said constitutional expert Bastien-François.

“What was acceptable in the sixties and even in the eighties is less acceptable today,” the historian at the Sorbonne University in Paris told AFP.

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