French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the French people this Wednesday in a television interview to ensure that the unpopular pension reform, which is opposed by seven out of 10 French people and almost the entire parliamentary arc, "will continue its democratic path" and will enter into force before the end of the year. In addition, he has given his confidence to the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, the visible head of the law.
"The text will follow its democratic path. It has been prepared by the government for months, it has modified it and there have been months of debate. It is the text enriched by the parliamentary path," said the president, whose intervention was highly anticipated.
Macron intervenes just a week after opening the box of thunder, by resorting to article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows a law to be passed without a parliamentary vote, to approve his unpopular pension reform, which aims to delay the retirement age from 62 years to 64.
The president has insisted on the economic arguments and the need for reform: in a few years there will be almost twice as many retirees and the accounts are not coming out. "Do you think I am amused by this reform? I am not amused and I would have liked not to, but it is in the general interest (...) It is not a luxury or a pleasure, it is a necessity", said Macron, who has warned: "If I have to pay the price of unpopularity, I assume it."
He recalled that the French State spent a lot in the pandemic, and later with the war, to "help companies and our compatriots". "The country is not the same", he has assured to justify the economic necessity of the law. According to government figures, the system will enter a deficit that will grow to 12,500 million euros by 2030.
The message is clear and firm. One of calm on the part of the president was expected, after a week of mobilizations, some violent, and protests against the law and the way in which it has been approved: by decree. Macron had already warned, through his collaborators, that he was not going to take drastic measures at the moment, such as changing the Government or dissolving the Assembly. Nor withdraw the law.
To this end, the opposition presented two motions of censure, which were rejected on Monday, although one of them was only nine votes away from being successful, which would also have meant the fall of the Government.
"Borne has my confidence to lead this government," Macron said, thus clearing up the doubt as to whether he is going to replace her. He has recalled that after the motions of censure they demonstrated "that there is no alternative majority." "The mandate that I have given him is that he continue to expand the majority to the extent that he can," he said.
Macron has condemned the acts of violence that have been taking place since last Thursday, with scenes of violence, burning of containers and police charges. Yesterday there were fifty detainees in Paris, but there are already half a thousand since the protests began. Interior has denounced that there are 300 agents injured since last Thursday.
The president has recognized that "we must listen to the anger" of the citizens, but "an overflow will not be tolerated": "Legitimate anger against the reform does not justify violence," he pointed out. "I respect the unions, which defend the protests. They have legitimacy," said Macron, who has cited scenes such as the assault on the Capitol in 2021 by supporters of Donald Trump or the recent ones in Brasilia by those of Bolsonaro.
Asked if he regrets anything, he said that he had not been able to share with the French the need for it. "It's a difficult reform, it's never popular, we don't compete over who has the responsibility. I'm here to do what needs to be done and we have to assume the difficult moments. It's a collective commitment," he said.
His speech doesn't seem to have calmed anyone down. Unions have denounced Macron's contempt and arrogance towards the French while the leader of the radical left, Jean Luc Mélenchon, has called him a liar. This morning the protests continue with blockades in some refineries and tomorrow is the ninth day of the general strike organized by the unions. They expect it to be the largest mobilization since the protests began in January.
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