The second term of Emmanuel Macron in the Élysée will live a decisive day today. The pension reform, which plans to delay the legal retirement age by two years – from 62 to 64 – reaches the French Parliament for the final vote. The suspense about the result is maintained until the end. If the project is approved, it will probably be by a very tight majority.
In recent days, both the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, and other members of the Government have called – and probably did so again last night – deputies from the Los Republicanos (LR, traditional right) party who are still doubtful about their vote . The 60 LR members in the National Assembly hold the key to whether or not to approve the reform, given that Macron's supporters largely lost an absolute majority in the legislative elections held in June last year.
The joint mixed commission between the Senate and the National Assembly – made up of 14 members – met yesterday and approved a common text. This final version must be voted on today in both chambers, in the morning by the senators, in the afternoon by the deputies.
The calculation for the Government is risky. It is clear that the project will have the green light by a large majority of the Senate (it already obtained it last Friday in a first vote). In the National Assembly it is different. It is difficult to guess exactly how many favorable votes he has. Some LR deputies claim to have received investment offers in their constituencies if they support the reform. The uncertainty is great because there could be last-minute changes of opinion or unforeseen absences. A few deputies from Macron's party refuse to vote on the reform.
Before the Assembly meets, the Government could, in theory, activate article 49.3 of the Constitution, which would allow the reform to be approved by decree. But it would be an exceptional procedure that would show his political weakness. The automatic response would be one or more motions of no confidence from the opposition. The government could fall. Macron has warned that, in that case, he would not appoint a new Executive but would dissolve the Assembly and call new elections, a very risky maneuver for the head of state and that would plunge the country into a serious crisis of instability in a very delicate economic context. and with a war in Europe.
After the Council of Ministers, the government spokesman, Olivier Véran, said that they continue to seek "a natural majority" in favor of the reform. In a message addressed to LR, he insisted that voting on the project is not giving a blank check. “It is not a vote of adhesion; it is a vote of responsibility”, stressed Véran. The spokesperson evoked other future projects, such as the reform of the migratory legislation or the institutional reform (of the electoral system, the number of regions, changes in the Constitution, etc.). It is clear that Macron wants to turn the page on the pension issue, which has been a nightmare, and open other debates.
The unions kept up the pressure with their eighth day of mobilization since the beginning of the year. The monitoring of the strikes and demonstrations was clearly downward. It is not possible to keep up the pressure so continuously, but the union leaders are willing to continue the fight, even if the reform is enacted.
The protest movement that gives the most talk is the strike of the garbage collectors, in Paris, Nantes, Le Havre, Montpellier and other cities. The situation in the capital is the most controversial because the strikers have the explicit support of the mayoress, the socialist Anne Hidalgo. She considers it legitimate that the garbage collectors have stopped working and believes that Parisians and visitors must accept the discomfort of living with mountains of garbage in the streets and more rats than ever. According to the mayoress, the government is to blame for not bowing down to the opponents of the reform.
Some critics are fierce against Hidalgo. The mayoress has been unpopular for a long time – she only reached 1.75% of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections – due to the gigantic municipal debt, the administrative hypertrophy, the dirt on the streets and the controversial decisions on mobility, always hostile to the private vehicle. Her choice to support a strike that turns the streets of Paris into a dump has further angered her detractors. The Government considers exceptional measures to force garbage collection and there is even talk of using the army.