Barricaded the French Parliament: Surprising security in the country with a fundamental decision on a constitutional amendment to the pension system
The French capital is underightened security as the country prepares for a crucial ruling on the constitutionality of changes to the pension system.
The Constitutional Council in Paris, France’s equivalent of the US supreme court, has been barricaded ahead of the decision, which could see France’s retirement age raised from 62 to 64.
An expert in French constitutional law told CNN the police operation to protect the court is unprecedented. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve never seen images like this before,” Laureline Fontaine said.
Over the course of this year, protests have paralyzed major services in the country over the proposal from the French President. Uncollected garbage has mounted in the streets of Paris.
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There are several possible outcomes to Friday’s ruling. In September the law will be in effect if it is green-lit. The first retiring will have to wait three months for their state pensions. With regular, incremental increases, by 2030 the retirement age will have reached 64.
If the court finds that the law in unconstitutional, it cannot be enacted. This is unlikely and would be a political earthquake for Macron, whose government pushed through the legislation without a direct vote by using special constitutional powers.
Macron has argued that the reforms are essential to rein in public finances, and has been standing firm, this week saying “the country must continue to move forward.”
Thursday marked the 12th nationwide day of protests against the proposals. A lot of people took to the streets but the interior ministry said there was only about 380,000 people at the rally.
A union leader told CNN that if Macron wanted to find money to finance the pension system, he should come to Paris.
France is not the exception to this rule and its new retirement age will still be below the average in Europe and in other developed economies where the age of full pension benefits can start at 65.
Depending on when you were born, the retirement age in the United Kingdom is between 66 and 67. Current legislation shows a rise from 67 to 72 in Britain between 2046 and 2047, although the timing is being reviewed and could change.
The Constitutional Council – akin to the US Supreme Court – struck down some elements of the new law, but the most controversial element remains: the gradual upping of the retirement age.
The final approval of the pension reforms is a victory for Macron one year into his second presidential term, but the unpopularity of the new law has come at a great political cost with his approval ratings at near-record low levels.
The first request by the opposition to have a referendum on the reform was refused by the Constitutional Council. A last-minute second request put forward Thursday to hold a referendum on the reform remains under consideration.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the decision shows the council “is more attentive to the needs of the presidential monarchy than to those of the sovereign people” while the far-right’s Marine Le Pen urged those who oppose the changes to vote for her at the next election.