A surprise that is not really one. After several days of suspense, the government has finally made announcements on pension reform, a major project for Emmanuel Macron’s second five-year term. If the project had taken a back seat during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no question for the Head of State to give it up a second time and he will do everything to modify, in depth, the current system.
While many feared a forced passage, through an amendment to the Social Security Finance Bill (PLFSS), the Elysee Palace finally opted for softness. The pension reform will be studied in a single bill, after new consultations with the opposition, trade unions and employers’ organizations. The government is aiming for a reading of the text in the winter, then a rapid adoption for implementation in the summer of 2023, i.e. in less than a year.
Is Emmanuel Macron’s calendar realistic? In addition to arousing discontent in the population, the pension reform arouses it in the National Assembly, where the presidential party has a relative majority. If the oppositions decide to join forces, it is not certain that the text wanted by the executive can pass and the Head of State is well aware of this. He has already warned that gentleness could be replaced by force if necessary. Quoted by Le Parisien, Emmanuel Macron would have said at his majority during a dinner at the Elysee Palace on Wednesday: “Everything will be possible, but we will not back down”. Translation, according to members of his government: “It means that we will then have free rein to move forward as we want, by an amendment to the PLFSS, a corrective PLFSS in January or a dedicated bill”.
The president even brandished the threat of dissolution, a great first since his election in 2017. He would be ready, in fact, to dissolve the National Assembly in the event of censorship of the opposition, declaring, according to the Ile-de-France daily: ” Do not think that my authority will not last until the end on the decisions to be taken. If ever there is a motion of censure, in the minute which follows there will be dissolution “. Is the reform already sure of being adopted?
Emmanuel Macron does not hide his ambition: the pension reform will pass, regardless of the means used. He could, initially, decide to engage article 49-3 of the Constitution in order to have the text adopted without a vote. A cartridge that exposes him to serious consequences, since the opposition could then file a motion of censure against his government. The latter must bring together 289 deputies, but the main opposition party, Nupes, has 131 seats in the hemicycle. It would therefore take an alliance between the oppositions, which is far from infeasible: the National Rally, through Marine Le Pen, announced Monday that it would vote “all the motions of censure which will be tabled”.
It is at this point that the Head of State could decide to dissolve the National Assembly, after consultation with his Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, the President of the Senate Gérard Larcher and the President of the National Assembly Yaël Braun- Pivet. A dangerous game for Emmanuel Macron, who could lose the narrow majority he has in the event of re-election… This is what happened to Jacques Chirac who, after a dissolution in 1997, found himself with a majority on the left. We would then enter into a system of cohabitation and it would be even more difficult to pass the reform…
To avoid this escalation, Emmanuel Macron has a plan.
A dissolution of the National Assembly would not be good news for the president, but also for other parties, which would not be sure of having their deputies re-elected. Emmanuel Macron is confident because, explains TF1 Info, he “hopes to remind his opponents that they have nothing to gain by putting obstacles in his way, first and foremost Les Républicains”. It is indeed on the deputies of the right that the government is counting on to obtain a majority in the National Assembly. The latter, among the big losers of the last legislative elections, would also be in danger in the event of dissolution… Will this threat be enough for Emmanuel Macron to convince them to rally to his cause? The next few weeks will tell.