An elite French institution was expected to rule Friday on whether President Emmanuel Macron’s contested plan to raise the retirement age is constitutional, a decision that could calm or further enrage opponents of the change.
All eyes were on the heavily guarded Constitutional Council, which can nix all or parts of a complex pension reform plan that Macron pushed through without a vote by the lower house of parliament. Spontaneous demonstrations were likely around France ahead of the nine-member court’s ruling.
The president’s drive to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 has provoked months of labour strikes and protests. Violence by pockets of ultra-left radicals marked the 12 otherwise peaceful nationwide marches that unions organized since January.
In addition to ruling on the pension reforms, the Constitutional Council also will decide on a request by lawmakers who oppose the plan to use a little-used and lengthy process that could ultimately lead to a referendum on a proposal for the legal retirement age not to exceed 62.
The court members can reject the pension legislation in whole or in part. Any sections they conclude pass constitutional muster must be promulgated into law, whether or not the council also grants the referendum request.
Union leaders have said the body’s decisions would be respected. However, they also have vowed to continue protest actions in an attempt to get Macron to simply withdraw the measure.
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“As long as this reform isn’t withdrawn, the mobilization will continue in one form or another,” Sophie Binet, head of the leftist CGT union, said Thursday.
The leader of the moderate CFDT, Laurent Berger, warned that “there will be repercussions” if the Constitutional Council gives the French government a green light.
Polls have consistently shown that the majority of French citizens are opposed to working two more years before being able to reap pension benefits. The government’s decision to skirt a parliamentary vote in March by using special constitutional powers renewed the fury of opponents of the measure.
Opponents have challenged the government’s choice of including the pension plan in a budget bill, which significantly accelerated the legislative process. They hope it will provide grounds for the Constitutional Council to reject the text as a whole.
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