Retirement: the last chance reform for Macron?

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Will Emmanuel Macron reform pensions? He failed to do so during his first five-year term and, as Le Figaro reminds us, there is something historic about this failure: it was a first since 1981. Before him, only François Mitterrand had not upset the workings of the inter-generational generality model in France. “The conditions are not met to relaunch this project”, he had simply explained, on the occasion of an allowance in November 2021, after having had to retreat in the face of popular mobilizations and the health crisis. Since then, it is clear that the situation has changed considerably.

Firstly because Emmanuel Macron no longer holds the same speech: there is no longer any question of giving birth to a new and universal system. This time, the Head of State has opted for something simpler – a parametric reform, which therefore only aims to play with the modalities of the system in place. There is now talk of gradually raising the legal retirement age to 65. And then, underlines the daily Les Echos, there is also the little music that the executive let sing: that of renunciation.

Week after week, month after month, the pension reform has moved away from the horizons. It no longer appeared as a priority in Elisabeth Borne’s speeches and the question was not even put on the program of the National Council for Refoundation. This, however, Emmanuel Macron wants it to stop. He “is always looking for the way to make his reform”, explain our colleagues.

According to François Lenglet, editorial writer at RTL, the head of state could even be tempted to force through. He is preparing for it, can we read on the site. But will he be able to achieve this? Does he still have the necessary resources to get there? According to Raul Magni-Berton, teacher-researcher at the Institute of Political Studies of Grenoble (IEP, Sciences-Po) and specialized in particular in the fields of democracy, citizenship, elections or redistribution, the situation is much more complex than it seems. Explanations.

“Several elements must be taken into account. Let us first recall that a President of the Republic and his executive always have more latitude for action at the start of their term of office. Therefore, such a reform is easier to carry out early in the five-year term”, observes the specialist first, for whom the main problem however lies elsewhere. “Above all, the head of state governs with a minority. From then on, all the dynamics change and it is no longer the political capital that counts: what is needed is the ability to find a reform on which to build a majority”, he continues.

This type of constraint, if the executive manages to override it, could strengthen the legitimacy of its reform. “If they do find a majority, it means that the reform will have been reinforced by negotiation. It will be mechanically better accepted. The conditions are there, moreover, since Les Républicains could, under certain conditions, find themselves on the need to reform pensions”, adds Raul Magni-Berton. Impossible, however, not to consider the possible “forced passage” of the president, as described by François Lenglet. “It would not be very rational, but LREM was not known to take opposition into account”, underlines the academic. This time it would be taking a risk…

“To carry out his reform, Emmanuel Macron has three options: either he knew how to have the blank check of Parliament, which is not the case today, or he wins a referendum, or he opts for the 49-3”, first summarizes Raul Magni-Berton. The third option, popularized in particular under François Hollande, presents many risks for the Head of State. “It’s all or nothing. If that does not work, the opposition could very easily bring down the government and the executive could, in return, decide to dissolve the National Assembly. Everyone potentially loses, even if the situation generally favors opposition”, explains the teacher-researcher.

A bad choice, then. However, Emmanuel Macron and his team have no other choice but to succeed: they will probably not have the opportunity to try after their first shot. And the political scientist to conclude: “This is obviously not the last chance for pension reform. On the other hand, it is the last for this government.”