Right and wrong of Macron on the pension reform in France
A President of the Republic who carries out a reform in spite of the opposition, certified by all the polls, of two thirds of the population is a President of the Republic who obviously did something wrong. Macron had to better explain the reform (just right). Conversation with Alberto Toscano, journalist, former French correspondent for several Italian newspapers, essayist and president of the European Press Association in France.
The pension reform in France has reached a decisive turning point, with the government which, lacking its own parliamentary majority, resorted to a vote of confidence, which immediately reverberated in a square already mobilized amid strikes and clashes.
To understand what will happen now, Start Magazine spoke to Alberto Toscano, journalist, former correspondent from France for various Italian newspapers, essayist and president of the European Press Association in France.
As you yourself predicted in the previous interview with Start Magazine, we have reached a stage in which the government drops the ace of the motion of confidence by invoking art. 49 paragraph 3 of the Constitution with the result of exacerbating street clashes.
Now France is in a spiral of confusion, because there is this vast protest that will take forms that are difficult to predict. It is very probable that there will be demonstrations all over France today which will see massive mobilisation, but the sure thing is that on Thursday 23 March there will be a day of mobilization, which will practically be a day of general strike.
How did we get here?
Underlying everything is on the one hand the fact that two out of three French people are against this reform and on the other hand the fact that Macron does not have a parliamentary majority. We are therefore faced with a halved presidentialism in which the Head of State cannot count on the unconditional support of Parliament. This time Macron took a risk by insisting on this reform. He believed he could win the support of the neo-Gaullists, but in the end the Republicains party in Parliament melted away like snow in the sun. And now Macron has found himself forced to use the bazooka of the motion of confidence, or rather of not voting, since in France the Constitution allows the government to give a bill as approved without even the need for a parliamentary vote. But of course this weapon when used creates a deep sense of unease in public opinion. And especially in the case of a bill as unpopular as this Macron passed by force but in a way that public opinion considers improper.
What will be the next parliamentary steps?
Now we move on to the vote on the various no-confidence motions which will certainly be presented in these hours and which will be immediately discussed and voted on. However, it is very difficult for a no-confidence motion to be approved, because the various opposition families are in turn on very bad terms with each other, i.e. between Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon it is evidently not easy to reach an agreement. However, there will now be days of parliamentary tension and in the squares. Even if the reform will most likely come into force by now, a long period of instability is opening up.
How does Macron get out of this battle?
Throughout this affair, Macron has effectively lost some of his personal credibility. One wonders now how he, recently re-elected, will be able to manage power in such difficult conditions for another four and a half years, that is, without having a real parliamentary majority. There are 577 deputies and the macronist coalition has 250, so the president has a strong relative majority but does not have an absolute majority. And obviously he will not be able to continue to systematically use the weapon of art. 49 paragraph 3 of the Constitution which allows the government to give a measure as approved without going through a parliamentary vote. This is an absolute weapon that you will be able to use occasionally but not systematically.
And in the meantime, what will happen to the pension reform?
As for the reform itself, it is now very likely that it will enter into force despite the no-confidence motions. But as far as Macron's perspective in power is concerned, this perspective is that of an increasingly weak Macron and certainly in difficulty in the face of public opinion, which does not digest his choice to seek a showdown.
And do you think the protests will continue?
As regards public order and the social situation, it is clear that France will see the period of tension continue. There are strikes such as the sanitation strike already underway, other strikes could resume in the next few days in the energy sector, in the refineries. There are schools in turmoil and even in the health sector there are forms of discontent. So France has entered a period of social unrest, which could spread and put the government in difficulty.
What does it tell us about the social composition of dissent?
From the point of view of its social composition, discontent is absolutely transversal. At the same time it must be said that the cause of this discontent is difficult to explain. It is difficult to explain that, while in Germany people retire at 67 and in Italy between 65 and 67, the French instead expect to continue to retire at 62 and do not accept the idea of a reform that raises the retirement age at 64 and above on a staggered basis throughout the 1920s.
Was Macron therefore right to keep the bar straight?
As regards the content of the reform, it is quite clear that Macron is right, and yet the president has not duly taken into account his institutional weakness in Parliament during this legislature, unlike the previous one in which his coalition enjoyed an absolute majority. It also appears that Macron has not considered the opportunity to explain this reform to voters in order to win the consent of at least a significant fraction of public opinion. A President of the Republic who carries out a reform in spite of the opposition, certified by all the polls, of two thirds of the population is a President of the Republic who obviously did something wrong. This reform needed to be better explained, it needed to be discussed beforehand in the most appropriate forums.
This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/economia/ragioni-e-torti-di-macron-sulla-riforma-delle-pensioni-in-francia/ on Sat, 18 Mar 2023 08:16:35 +0000.