Macron leadership at risk amid tensions over pension plan – KESQ

The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — A parody photo appearing on protest billboards and online in France shows President Emmanuel Macron sitting on piles of garbage. The image refers to the uncollected garbage with striking health workers, but also what many French people think of their leader.

Macron, 45, hoped his drive to Raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years he would cement his legacy as the president who transformed France’s economy for the 21st century. Instead he finds his leadership questionedboth in parliament and on the streets of major cities.

His brazen move to force a pension reform bill without a vote has angered the political opposition and could hamper his government’s ability to pass legislation for the remaining four years of his term.

Demonstrators waved the parody photo at protests after Macron opted at the last minute on Thursday to invoke the constitutional power of government pass the bill without a vote in the National Assembly. He has remained silent on the issue ever since.

Since becoming president in 2017, Macron has often been accused of arrogance and being out of touch. Perceived as “the president of the rich”, he provoked resentment for telling an unemployed man that he only needed to “cross the street” to find a job and for suggesting that some French workers were “lazy”.

Now the Macron government has alienated citizens “for a long time” by using the special authority it has under Article 49.3 of the French constitution to impose a highly unpopular change, said Brice Teinturier, deputy director general of the Ipsos polling institute. .

The only winners in the situation are far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her National Rally party, “which continues its strategy of ‘getting respectable’ and opposing Macron,” and the unions in France, Teinturier said. Le Pen was runner-up to Macron in the country’s last two presidential elections.

As the piles of garbage grow and its smell worsens, many people in Paris are blaming Macron, not the striking workers.

Macron said repeatedly he was convinced that the French retirement system needed to be changed to keep it funded. He says that other proposed options, such as increasing the already heavy tax burden, would drive away investment and that cutting pensions for current retirees was not a realistic alternative.

Public displays of discontent can weigh heavily on your future decisions. The spontaneous, sometimes violent protests that broke out in Paris and throughout the country in recent days have contrasted with the demonstrations and strikes mostly peaceful formerly organized by the main unions in France.

Macron’s re-election for a second term last April reinforced his position as a major player in Europe. He campaigned on a pro-business agendapledging to address the issue of pensions and saying that the French must “work longer”.

In June, Macron’s centrist alliance lost its parliamentary majority, although it still has more seats than other political parties. He said at the time that his government wanted to “legislate in a different way,” based on compromises with a variety of political groups.

Conservative lawmakers have since agreed to support some bills that fit with their own policies. But tensions over the pension plan and a general lack of trust between the ideologically diverse parties may put an end to attempts to seek a compromise.

Macron’s political opponents in the National Assembly tabled two no-confidence motions on Friday against the government of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. Government officials are hoping to survive a vote on the motions scheduled for Monday because the opposition is divided and many Republicans are not expected to support it.

However, if a motion passes, it would be a major blow to Macron: the pension bill would be rejected and his cabinet would have to resign. In that case, the president would have to appoint a new cabinet and see his ability to get legislation passed weakened.

But Macron would retain substantial powers over foreign policy, European affairs and defense. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he can make decisions about France’s support for Ukraine and other global issues without parliamentary approval.

France’s strong presidential powers are a legacy of General Charles de Gaulle’s desire for a stable political system for the Fifth Republic he established in 1958.

The prime minister’s future seems less certain. If the no-confidence motions fail, Macron could enact a higher retirement age but try to appease his critics with a government shakeup. But Borne has given no indication of backing down.

“I am convinced that we will build the good solutions that our country needs by continuing to seek compromises with workers’ unions and employers’ organizations,” she said, speaking on French television channel TF1 on Thursday. “There are many issues that we need to continue working on in parliament.”

Macron plans to propose new measures designed to reduce France’s unemployment rate to 5%, from the current 7.2%, by the end of his second and final term.

Another option in the hands of the president is to dissolve the National Assembly and call early parliamentary elections.

That scenario looks unlikely for now, as the unpopularity of the pension plan means Macron’s alliance is unlikely to win a majority of seats. And if he won another party, he would have to appoint a prime minister from the majority faction, empowering the government to implement policies that deviate from the president’s priorities.

Mathilde Panot, a lawmaker from the leftist Nupes coalition, sarcastically said on Thursday that it was a “very good” idea of ​​Macron’s to dissolve the Assembly and call for elections.

“I think it would be a good opportunity for the country to reaffirm that it does want the retirement age to drop to 60,” Panot said. “The Nupes are always available to rule.”

Le Pen said she, too, would welcome a “dissolution.”


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