Pension reform before the Constitutional Council on a crucial day for France
After months of sometimes violent street protests and heated debates in the National Assembly, the Constitutional Council could decide on Friday the unpopular pension reform process that is the main project in Emmanuel Macron’s second term.
The French are eagerly awaiting the decision to be issued by this supreme judicial body stationed in the ancient Ballet Royal building in central Paris, from which the “patriots” launched on July 12, 1789 the insurrection that led to the fall of the Bastille.
The Council, whose activities have rarely aroused such interest in recent decades, has three options: either to endorse the reform or to reject it in whole or in part. The reform calls for raising the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years.
It seems unlikely that this body empowered to check the conformity of laws with the constitution will overturn the entire reform. But it can significantly refine the text and strengthen union arguments for withdrawing or suspending it.
Supporters and opponents of reform expect the suspension of some articles, especially the testing of a new contract for unlimited work.
Constitutional law professor Laureline Fontaine said that this partial amendment, which would be the least harmful to the executive branch, “goes in the direction (the council) has always followed,” namely, “not to object to major social or societal reforms.”
“If you cross out some points … but not the age of 64, it will not in any way address the social conflict,” warned Laurent Berget, Secretary General of the French Confederation of Democratic Labor (CFDT).
On paper, the court may approve the entire bill without any change, but that is not likely, many constitutional experts say. It is also unlikely that she will reject him completely.
An unusual procedure
The Constitutional Court is also supposed to consider holding a “joint initiative referendum” requested by the left, which wants to submit a proposal for a law that does not allow the retirement age to exceed 62 years to a referendum.
After that, it remains to know the reaction of the opponents of reform, who are the hundreds of thousands who have demonstrated regularly since mid-January.
The forcible adoption of the text on March 20 by the government without a vote in the National Assembly, based on a constitutional text that allows this, led to a large wave of mobilization that witnessed the first acts of violence, which were repeated after that.
But the decline was evident on Thursday, the twelfth mobilization day. For the third week in a row, the number of demonstrators decreased to 380,000, according to the authorities, but it reached “more than 1.5 million,” according to the General Confederation of Workers (CGT).
The level of violence decreased Thursday, but the Constitutional Council witnessed a brief attempt to disrupt its work by demonstrators who were dispersed by the security forces.
Cyril Chabanier, head of the French Confederation of Christian Workers, warned that “if we do not get at least the joint initiative referendum, the social anger will be very intense.”
Union officials met Thursday night to formulate their joint response to the various scenarios.
A memo issued by the intelligence agency, seen by AFP, revealed that there are 131 expected moves after the council’s decision.
France has one of the lowest retirement ages in Europe.
The executive authority justifies its project by the need to address the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population.