(Paris) The unpopular pension reform in France and its flagship measure of raising the retirement age to 64 years old was promulgated on Saturday morning in the Official Journal, after the validation of most of the text by the Constitutional Council.
After the Constitutional Council’s decision on Friday, the unions had “solemnly” asked French President Emmanuel Macron “not to promulgate the law”. A request that remained a dead letter: by promulgating the text, Mr. Macron opposed an end of inadmissibility.
The French president had fifteen days after the validation of most of the reform measures by the Constitutional Council to affix his signature and thus give it its enforceability.
“The Social Security Code is thus amended […] In the first paragraph, the word: ‘sixty-two’ is replaced by the word: ‘sixty-four'”, states the text.
The Constitutional Council on Friday validated the essentials of the pension reform and blocked a first request for a referendum of shared initiative (RIP) from the left, which hoped to start collecting 4.8 million signatures for an unprecedented consulting the French.
“There is no winner or loser,” assured Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, referring to “the end of the institutional and democratic journey” of the text adopted in the Assembly after the use of “49.3”, a controversial article of the French constitution allowing a bill to be passed without a vote.
The decision was greeted with boos, consternation or anger at rallies across France, which sometimes resulted in wild demonstrations interspersed with degradations.
“Some say that the mobilization is weakening, I think it is becoming more radical,” said Raji Aletcheredji, 24, of the Solidaires union.
In Paris, several hundred people had gathered in wild processions. In the evening, the prefect of police of Paris Laurent Nuñez confirmed the arrest of “a few dozen people” and “thirty garbage cans set on fire”.
In Rennes, in western France, the door of a police station was briefly set on fire. And in Marseille, in the south, rail traffic was suspended due to the presence of demonstrators on the tracks.
In Paris, entrenched behind riot barriers, the Constitutional Council was under guard. Any demonstration near its headquarters, in a wing of the Royal Palace, is prohibited until Saturday morning. The neighboring Comedie Francaise has canceled its Friday performances.
Meeting in the evening, the inter-union stressed that the censorship by the Council of six articles of the law (in particular on the employment of seniors) made this text, “already unfair”, “even more unbalanced”.
The meeting proposed by Emmanuel Macron to the unions for Tuesday will have to wait: the inter-union does not intend to go to the Élysée before May 1, a traditional social meeting that it wishes to transform into “a day of exceptional and popular mobilization” .
The president of the traditional right-wing LR party, Eric Ciotti, for his part called on “all political forces” to “accept” the decision of the Constitutional Council.
“The fight continues”, reacted the boss of the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, while the leader of the far right Marine Le Pen considered that “the political fate of the pension reform is not sealed” .
Gathered on the forecourt of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, hundreds of opponents greeted this decision with boos.
“We will continue of course, we will amplify the demonstrations, with or without the inter-union. Time will play for us. Macron will be forced to back down,” said 37-year-old John Barlou.
The dispute, which has shaken the country since mid-January, had run out of steam during the last days of action, in particular Thursday, the 12th.
But the anger remains strong even if the executive hopes, with this decision, to resume the march of this second five-year term of Mr. Macron, seriously hampered.
France is one of the European countries with the lowest retirement age, but with very different systems.
The executive justifies its project by the need to respond to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population, but opponents consider it “unfair”, especially for women and employees in arduous jobs.