Macron’s costly victory on pension reform - GulfToday

Macron’s costly victory on pension reform


Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron seems to have scored a costly victory when he survived the no-confidence motion by nine votes in the National Assembly and he has managed to push his pension reform, pushing the retirement age up from 62 to 64. When the legislation failed to pass in the legislature, Macron resorted to Article 49.3 in the Constitution which allows the government to pass reform even if it fails to go through the legislature. The opposition then moved a no-confidence motion which Macron won narrowly. But the pension reform scheme remains unpopular with the majority of the people, who have been protesting on the streets of Paris. Macron is arguing that there is no alternative to the harsh reform if France is to survive for the future. The pension rules require that workers have not only to work till then turn 64, but they should have an unbroken record of 40 years of full-time employment. With the employment situation in France precarious for many years – it is not just the Covid-19 interruption – it is unrealistic to expect that people would have held a full-time job for the required period to qualify for the pension.

The pension dilemma that France faces is the one staring many advanced economies in the face – the dwindling finances of the state and the social security obligations have made it an unbearable financial burden. While Macron’s concerns are genuine, it seems he has failed to work out an agreeable solution with the people most affected by the measure. Macron is supposed to make a TV appearance and to talk about his stance. But friends and critics of the French president are of the view that he would convince too few people.

A Macron ally, Gille Le Gendre, said, “We are all weakened. The president, the government, the majority.” French communist party secretary-general, Fabien Roussel, was blunt: “The government is finished.” His critics are convinced that though Macron might have won the vote and he can go ahead and implement the pension reform, it remains a bad move disliked by a majority of people. Jean Regnaud, a scriptwriter, and opposed to the Macron move, said, “I think this was a denial of democracy.

The government passed a law which a majority of French people were against. We did not give him (Macron) a mandate to pass these reforms, which are unjust.”

Though Macron is engaged in consultations with his government colleagues, including French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, the heads of both houses of parliament, he has few options before him. He could reshuffle his government, replace the prime minister, something French presidents have done. When a law is defeated or when the government is in trouble, the president’s position remains till the next election in the French system of presidential government. But it would make governance difficult for the president. Macron has been consulting with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and the heads of the two houses of parliament and his other party members. European analysts believe that Macron would not address the discontent of the people but he would pretend that everything is fine and hope the protesters would tire out and go home. But they think that it would be a risky thing to do. Critics also believe that this pension reform though described by Macron’s ministers as leftist is going to benefit the far-right. Bruno Palier, a political scientist at French university sciences-Po, said, “This reform has all the ingredients to boost votes for parties on the radical right.” Palier believes that the brunt of the pension reform will fall on the lower middle class, the class that is likely to be attracted to right-wing populism.

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