Amid protests, Macron’s pension age hike plan clears contistutional challenge

by Will Tubbs

French President Emmanuel Macron’s flagship pension reform that triggered weeks of nationwide protests passed a crunch constitutional test on Friday and can now be promulgated in the coming days.

The legislation, which pushes the age at one can draw a full pension to 64 from 62, is deeply unpopular in France and has led to huge protests in recent weeks.

But in what will be a major relief to Macron and his government, the country’s Constitutional Council gave its green light – with just some minor caveats.

The Council said the government’s actions were in line with the constitution and approved raising the legal retirement age, with only peripheral measures meant to boost employment for older workers struck down on the grounds that they did not belong in this legislation.

Macron and his government hope such an outcome would discourage further trade union-led protests, which have at times turned violent.

“The country must continue to move forward, work, and face the challenges that await us,” Macron said earlier this week.

The government said the reform would be implemented from Sept. 1 as planned.

But hardline unions and the opposition have warned they will not back down and have urged Macron not to promulgate it.

“The fight continues,” hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said.

Protesters gathered outside Paris City Hall, holding banners reading “climate of anger” and “no end to the strikes until the reform is pulled” when the Constitutional Council’s verdict was announced.

Separately, the Constitutional Council rejected a proposal by the opposition to organise a citizens’ referendum on the pension reform.

The opposition has tabled another bid for a referendum, which should be reviewed by the Council early May.

Political observers say the widespread discontent over the government’s reform could have longer-term repercussions, including a possible boost for the far right.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen wrote on Twitter that “the political fate of the pension reform is not sealed,” urging voters to back those who oppose it in the next election so that they can scrap it.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters