December 9, 2023

New protests erupted after the Constitutional Council approved the key provisions of the French president’s pension reform.

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France’s constitutional court has approved key elements of President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, sparking new nationwide protests against the plan.

On Friday, the nine-member Constitutional Council ruled in favor of key provisions, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, finding the legislation in line with the law.

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Six minor proposals were rejected, including an attempt to force large companies to publish data on how many people they employ over 55 and a separate idea to create a special contract for older workers.

The ruling paves the way for Macron to implement unpopular changes that have sparked months of protests and strikes.

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The decision represents a victory for Macron, but analysts say it came at a cost to the 45-year-old and also led to months of upheaval in the country over protests, sometimes violent, that left hundreds injured.

The president’s personal approval rating is close to its lowest ever, and many voters were outraged by his decision to defy hostile public opinion and push the pension bill through the lower house of parliament without a vote.

“Keep your course, that’s my motto,” Macron said on Friday as he inspected restoration work at Notre Dame Cathedral four years after the devastating fire that destroyed the Gothic masterpiece.

Demonstrators protest outside the Paris City Hall [Lewis Joly/AP Photo]

Thousands of protesters gathered at the Paris City Hall and booed the court’s decision. Some then marched through the center of the city.

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Hundreds of protesters broke out in other cities, including Marseille and Toulouse, as well as Lyon, where police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators, according to the AFP news agency.

In the western city of Rennes, protesters set fire to the entrance to a police station, and other fires also started in the city.

“Attacks in Rennes…by thugs determined to fight this are unacceptable,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted.

Al Jazeera’s Natasha Butler, reporting from Paris, said the court ruling was a big victory for Macron.

“But there is no doubt that this comes at a price,” she said, recalling that France has endured months of massive protests.

“Macron is faced with a situation where he needs to try to rebuild trust with unions, some opposition lawmakers and segments of French society,” Butler added.


“All trade unions call on the President of the Republic to be wise, to listen and understand what is happening in the country, and not to promulgate this law,” said Sophie Binet, leader of the CGT trade union.

In a joint statement, the unions said it was “the only way to calm the anger in the country”.

“The fight continues and must gain momentum,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left party La France Insoumise, tweeted.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally, added that the fate of the reform was “undecided” despite Friday’s decision.

Last month, a strike by Parisian scavengers left the capital strewn with 10,000 tons of uncollected rubbish, with rail travel, oil refineries and schools shut down regularly since January.

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About 380,000 people took to the streets across the country Thursday on the last day of the union-led action, according to the Interior Ministry.

But that’s just a fraction of the nearly 1.3 million people who demonstrated at the height of the protests in March.

In a second ruling on Friday, the court rejected a proposal by opposition lawmakers to hold a referendum on an alternative pension law that would keep the retirement age at 62.

France is currently lagging behind most of its European neighbors, many of whom have raised their retirement age to 65 and beyond.

“Sustainable” model

Opponents of the law said it was unfair to unskilled workers who started working at an early age, while critics also said it undermines workers’ right to long retirements.

The average life expectancy in France is 82 years.

Macron has repeatedly called the change “necessary” to avoid an annual pension shortfall that the government predicts will reach 13.5 billion euros ($14.8 billion) by 2030.

“I am proud of the French social model and I defend it, but if we want to make it sustainable, we must produce more,” he said on Wednesday during a trip to the Netherlands.

“We have to reindustrialize the country. We must reduce unemployment and increase the amount of work done in the country. This pension reform is part of it.”