All the spotlights illuminate this Friday the same scenario in France: that of the Constitutional Council, which is based a few meters from the Louvre museum in the heart of the capital and which is currently the most guarded place in the country with an explicit ban on demonstrating in its surroundings until Saturday at noon. After three months of social conflict, this afternoon the Council must deliver its crucial verdict on Macron’s controversial reform and with it, open a new page at different levels. Because his decision may or may not calm the streets and, at the same time, may or may not be a tremendous setback for the French government.
The high court decides today if it approves the law that increases the retirement age from 62 to 64 and uncertainty is the general trend in these previous hours before the three possibilities that are on the table of the nine members of the Council, among whom are two former heads of Government such as the conservative Alain Juppe or the president of the body, the socialist Laurent Fabius: approval, partial censorship or total censorship. Of the nine current members, six are men and three are women. Five are former politicians and, of these, two macronistas, two conservatives and one socialist.
If the Constitutional approves the law, or at least its essential part, President Macron has already announced that he will promulgate it. Your goal is to turn the page one of the most turbulent periods since he came to power in 2017. This would be the scenario in which the Government trusts.
Many analysts point to an intermediate decision, the so-called partial censorship, which, however, would not go to the bottom of the core measure of delaying the retirement age. It seems unlikely that either of these two scenarios can defuse street protests in the short term. Another thing would be that the opinion was of total censorship, something that the unions and the opposition are asking for. In that case, the victory of the unions and the left and extreme right opposition would be resounding. For Macron, just a year after being re-elected, it would be the biggest setback of his political career.
In addition to the appeals against the pension reform, the Constitutional Court is examining a petition to organize a national referendum that would limit the retirement age to 62 years. This route requires collecting almost five million signatures in a period of nine months. The court could leave open a way to keep the mobilization alive, if it accepts the initiative. The main objection raised by the appeals that have been presented to the Constitutional Court is that the Government chose to include the reform in a law on rectifying financing of social security, instead of drafting a classic procedural law. In addition, the Government used an article that allowed shortening the terms of parliamentary debate. The fact that the reform was presented as a financial law also facilitated the use of 49.3, the decree with which it was finally approved. All these circumstances, according to the plaintiffs, would be violating the Constitution.
On the eve of the crucial decision, France has experienced the twelfth day of mobilization and protests in which a decrease in the number of protesters, probably linked to both erosion and this holding pattern. The number of protesters has not stopped falling since the call three weeks ago, which came just after the government imposed the reform by decree and later passed a motion of no confidence by only nine votes. The unions have calculated 400,000 in the main demonstration in Paris, while Interior left the figure at just over 40,000. The strikes have also lost strength. This Thursday they partially affect sectors such as transport and education, and the cleaning sector in Paris will resume strikes after having returned to work for a few days.
A group of strikers invaded the headquarters of the luxury brand LVMH in Paris in the morning with banners and smoke flares before being evicted. A more symbolic and media action than vandalism. However, late in the afternoon, there were again altercations between law enforcement and members belonging to radical groups in various cities such as Paris or Nantes. At the close of this edition, clashes between police forces and some radicals were still going on in the Bastille square and the number of detainees exceeded 40 with a dozen policemen injured to various degrees, at least one of them in a serious situation. The headquarters of the Bank of France, near Bastille, has also suffered damage, where the police charges continued late in the afternoon.
If the latest published polls agree on anything, it is the pronounced decline in Macron’s popularity and the granting of the position of great beneficiary of this whole episode National Regroupmentthe far-right party of Marine LePen. Le Pen would even be in a position to beat Macron in an eventual presidential runoff if it took place today. The latest poll published by Elabe for BFM says that the far-right would get 55% of the votes in the final round.