OMG, Macron about to be thrown into an angry french mob!
Talk about becoming dead meat. Sure, he did the right thing, but that won't save his ass. Ouch.
Macron Government Bypasses France’s National Assembly to Pass Pension Overhaul
President’s maneuver to raise retirement age heightens tensions with opponents
By Stacy Meichtry and Noemie Bisserbe, WSJ
Updated March 16, 2023 6:08 pm ET
PARIS—French President Emmanuel Macron’s government bypassed Parliament and invoked special constitutional powers on Thursday to raise the country’s retirement age, a step that places him at odds with France’s legislative branch and millions of protesters.
By requiring workers to stay on the job until they are 64 years old, rather than 62, Mr. Macron is rolling back an entitlement that lies at the heart of France’s social model. Long and cushy retirements are weighing on national finances while Mr. Macron wants to boost military spending amid the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Macron huddled with lieutenants inside the Élysée Palace on Thursday moments before the National Assembly was due to vote on the government’s pension-overhaul proposal. With parliamentary support teetering, Mr. Macron decided to use Article 49 of the French Constitution, a contentious provision that allows governments to enact legislation without approval from lawmakers.
The move rescued legislation that lies at the heart of Mr. Macron’s pro-business agenda. But it also handed fresh ammunition to unions and political parties on the far left and far right that have mobilized mass demonstrations for months and cast Mr. Macron as an out-of-touch authoritarian.
Tensions Rise Over France Pension Reforms as Macron Advances Measure
Now Mr. Macron is facing threats from parties on the far right and far left to hold a vote of no-confidence that, if successful, would force his government to resign and kill the pension overhaul. That effort faces an uphill climb as it is opposed by many lawmakers from the conservative Les Republicains party, which holds the balance of power in the National Assembly.
The French leader, who vowed after his reelection last year to govern as a consensus-builder, found himself thrust back into the role of technocrat, imposing market-friendly directives on a restive population.
Thousands of protesters streamed into the Place de la Concorde near the National Assembly on Thursday after the move, clashing with police and setting scaffolding on fire.
Union leaders vowed to continue the demonstrations and strikes that have hobbled the country. Public-sector workers have walked off the job in droves, canceling classes and stalling public transport. Trash has been piling up in the streets of Paris, as trash collectors have refused to remove garbage until Mr. Macron relents.
“This will reinvigorate the protest movement,” said Philippe Martinez, head of the far-left CGT union.
Inside the National Assembly, scores of lawmakers shouted down Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne as she invoked Article 49, drowning out her remarks with rowdy renditions of the French national anthem.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, later called on Mr. Macron to ditch his prime minister, saying it would amount to an “extra slap in the face to the French people” if Ms. Borne remained in office. National Rally and the NUPES—the left-leaning coalition of French socialists, communists and greens—said they plan to retaliate with the no-confidence motions.
A spokesman for Mr. Macron’s office declined to comment on the standing of his prime minister or the planned no-confidence motions. Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt said in September that if a no-confidence vote succeeded, Mr. Macron would dissolve the National Assembly.
The deciding ballots in a no-confidence vote would be cast by the conservative Les Républicains—the same party that failed Thursday to muster enough support among its lawmakers to persuade Mr. Macron to put his pension overhaul to a vote.
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Les Républicains leader Eric Ciotti said lawmakers from his party met Thursday and decided not to vote in favor of any no-confidence motions proposed by National Rally or NUPES. Mr. Ciotti said he supported Mr. Macron’s pension overhaul, which gradually raises the retirement age over the next seven years, but acknowledged that not everyone in his ranks agreed with him.
“We’re in a crisis of democracy,” he said.
Some lawmakers in Mr. Macron’s own party cast the president’s use of Article 49 as a sign of how the former investment banker has lost touch with the national mood since he won his first election in 2017.
“I ask myself a very simple question, but with a certain sadness: The Macron of 2017, would he have taken the same decision?” said Gilles Le Gendre, a lawmaker from Mr. Macron’s party, Renaissance, and the former head of the party’s group in the National Assembly.
The French leader is caught between demographic and geopolitical crosscurrents. The war in Ukraine has exposed gaps in Europe’s militaries, raising pressure on Mr. Macron to increase military spending that currently stands at 1.9% of France’s gross domestic product.
France spends around 14.5% of its GDP on pensions, compared with 7.5% in the U.S. and 10.4% in Germany, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of rich nations.
As people live longer and the population grows older, the number of active workers who fund pension payments for retirees is shrinking. France had more than four workers for every retiree in the early 1960s, according to the government. That figure stood at 1.7 in 2020, and it is projected to fall to 1.5 over the next decade, according to an independent panel of economists, lawmakers and union leaders advising the government on pensions.
Mr. Macron no longer has the commanding majority in Parliament that defined his first term in office. Back then, Mr. Macron rewrote France’s rigid labor laws and abolished its wealth tax with hardly any blowback in Parliament. Mr. Macron used Article 49, however, in a previous attempt to change France’s pension system, an effort he shelved when the Covid-19 pandemic reached France.
On Thursday, vote counting went down to the wire as Ms. Borne shuttled to the Élysée Palace to consult with Mr. Macron before heading to the halls of Parliament. There she was confronted with loud heckling from backbenchers as she strained to raise her voice above the clamor.
“This reform is necessary,” she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke in Paris on Thursday.
PHOTO: MICHEL EULER/ASSOCIATED PRESS