08 May 2023
France's top constitutional body, the Constitutional Council, has rejected a proposal by opposition lawmakers to reverse President Emmanuel Macron's law that would raise the retirement age to 64. The move marks the second time the council has denied a request to restore the retirement age to 62 through a possible referendum or new bill. Had the proposal been accepted, reversing the law would have been long and would not have stopped Macron's law from taking effect.
The council ruled that the proposed legislation did not satisfy conditions set out in the French Constitution. Opposition lawmakers, mainly from the left, wanted to launch a complex process to reject Macron's unpopular pension law, which was enacted last month. The council's role was to assess whether the opposition's request met the legal conditions for a potential referendum. Had it been accepted, supporters would have had nine months to collect signatures from at least 4.8 million, or 10%, of French voters.
Macron's government would then have been able to choose between sending the opposition's text to parliament for debate and eventually a vote or waiting for six months to put the measure before voters in a referendum. The proposal would only have gone to a national referendum if it were not debated by lawmakers.
The Constitutional Council had previously rejected a similar proposal in April. The authors revised the measure to include language stating that a change in the financing of France's pension system was needed.
The process, established in 2015, has never yet led to a referendum. A favourable ruling would not have suspended the law that Macron's government pushed through by using a special constitutional power to raise the retirement age without a final parliamentary vote.
Macron has defended the reform, stating that it is necessary to keep the pension system afloat as the population ages. However, the measure has prompted months of street protests from opponents who argue that there are other ways to finance the pension system, including via a tax on the wealthy or employers.
The country's main labour unions have called for another round of nationwide demonstrations and strikes on June 6. The protests highlight the growing political and social unrest in France as public dissatisfaction with Macron's government grows. In addition to the pensions dispute, Macron has faced criticism for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic policies, and alleged authoritarian tendencies.