Day of decision for Macron’s pension wager in tense France

The French debate over a plan that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 reaches its culmination on Thursday, either through a parliamentary vote or a special presidential action to drive the law through the legislature.

The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 193-114 on Thursday morning, a result that was widely anticipated given that the conservative majority of the upper house of parliament favors a higher retirement age. The bill will now be considered by the National Assembly, where its fate remains unknown.

President Emmanuel Macron met with leaders of his centrist coalition early in the morning to discuss the complicated political situation in the National Assembly. He is anticipated to rejoin them at lunchtime.

Macron’s coalition lost its majority in parliament last year, forcing the government to rely on conservative legislators to enact the measure. Leftists and far-right legislators are vehemently opposed, while conservatives are divided, making the outcome uncertain.

The French leader wishes to raise the retirement age so that employees would contribute more money to a system that, according to the administration, is on track to run a deficit. If he is unable to obtain a majority vote in parliament, he has the constitutional right to enforce unpopular laws unilaterally.

Macron has portrayed the pension reforms as crucial to his plan to increase the competitiveness of the French economy. Late Wednesday, unions remained confrontational, urging MPs to vote against the measure and condemning the government’s use of legal loopholes to advance the bill as a dangerous “denial of democracy.”

Wednesday, about 500,000 people rallied against the measure around the nation. Students planned to march to the National Assembly’s headquarters on Thursday, as garbage workers continued a strike that has caused waste to build up across the French capital.

Macron “wishes” for a vote to occur at the National Assembly, according to a statement released by his office during a Wednesday night strategy discussion with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and ministries responsible for the measure.

Olivier Dussopt, commenting following the Senate vote, acknowledged that the administration has no assurance that the language authorized by the reconciliation committee on Wednesday would receive majority support in the lower house.

“We are determined to build that majority,” he said. “That’s our work, our commitment in the coming hours.”

Legitimacy would be enhanced if the proposal was approved by the National Assembly, but rather than risk rejection, Macron may use his authority to ram the law through parliament without a vote.

In Western Europe, economic difficulties have led to widespread discontent. Teachers, junior physicians, and public transportation workers went on strike in Britain on Wednesday demanding increased salaries to meet growing prices. And Spain’s socialist government collaborated with labor unions to announce a “historic” agreement to safeguard its pension system by increasing social security charges for higher-income workers.

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