Macron is facing the “moment of truth” in the pension vote.
PARIS — A proposed reform of France’s pension system, which has sparked massive protests and strikes since the beginning of the year, is due to be put to a vote in parliament on Thursday in a crucial moment for President Emmanuel Macron.
The Senate and National Assembly of the Lower House are expected to hold votes on legislation to raise the retirement age to 64, with Macron’s minority government relying on the support of the opposition Republican (LR) party.
After months of negotiations, “everyone wants a moment of truth,” a senior representative of Macron’s Renaissance Party told AFP on condition of anonymity. He admitted that there was a risk “that we could lose”.
Support in the Upper House Senate seems almost certain, but the fragmented assembly will find it harder to find a majority and the ultimate win-or-lose margin could amount to a handful of votes.
“In my group and also in the ruling party there are some MPs who do not want to approve this reform,” admitted the highest-ranking Republican party MP in Parliament, Olivier Marleix, on Wednesday evening.
The government has argued that raising the retirement age, removing privileges for some public sector workers and tightening criteria for a full pension are needed to prevent larger deficits from building up.
The unions have had the since the beginning of the year Resistance spearheaded the plans and organized some of the largest demonstrations in decades, culminating last Tuesday when an estimated 1.28 million people took to the streets.
They say the reform will penalize low-income people in manual jobs, who tend to start their careers early, and force them to work longer hours than graduates, who will be less affected by the changes.
An ongoing strike by municipal rubbish collectors in Paris last week has left an estimated 7,000 tonnes of uncollected rubbish on the streets, attracting rats and worrying tourists.
The strike, affecting about half of the city’s boroughs, has been extended until March 20, with private waste company Derichebourg conducting emergency collection in some of the hardest-hit areas.
But Derichebourg said on Wednesday it would stop intervening after threats from strikers “to block entrances and exits to our site if we continue collections for legal and contractual reasons for health reasons,” company director Thomas Derichebourg told AFP .
Despite Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin urging Paris city officials to send workers back to work citing ill health, Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo refused, writing on Wednesday that the protests were “fair”.
Elsewhere, workers at the CFE-CGC union in southern France claimed on Wednesday they had cut power to a presidential island in the Mediterranean Sea used by Macron for his summer vacation.
Trains, schools, public services and ports have been hit by strikes over the past six weeks.
Opinion polls show that two-thirds of the French are opposed to the pension reform and support the protest movement.
If Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne does not find an effective majority in parliament on Thursday, she could use a power contained in Article 49(3) of the constitution to enforce the law without a vote.
But analysts say such enforcement by decree would strip her and Macron of democratic legitimacy and expose the government to a vote of confidence it could lose.
“We don’t want the 49.3,” said government spokesman Olivier Veran on Sunday. “We want there to be a positive vote for this bill.”
Macron held final talks with Borne and senior ministers on Wednesday night to discuss strategy ahead of a vote that could be a turning point for his second term.
If the reform is passed, one question will be whether the unions and protesters will continue their protests and strikes, or whether the movement will fizzle out – something seen in previous confrontations with the unions.
“It’s a last craze from working people to say we don’t want a pension at 64,” CFDT union leader Laurent Berger told reporters as he joined a demonstration amid nationwide protests on Wednesday.
The political implications of voting through a reform that is rejected by the majority of the population are also uncertain for Macron and the country as a whole.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left populist Jean-Luc Melenchon are hoping to capitalize on Macron’s unpopularity after losing to the former investment banker in last year’s presidential election.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch