The suspense has ended. On Friday April 14, the Constitutional Council validated most of the reform, including the postponement of the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years old. Article two providing for the setting up of a senior index was challenged, as were five other minor provisions. The Elders also rejected the request for a split initiative referendum. Between endless waiting and limited disappointments, report at the heart of a day under high tension.
It is barely 6 p.m. when the telephones ring on the forecourt of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. The sighs are many. Union flags, smoke bombs, signs, the demonstrators had been preparing for several hours for the decision of the Constitutional Council. A few hundred people gathered in front of the building of the municipal institution. Valentin, 26, looking for a job, believes the ruling won't change the longevity of the protests. “We will continue to fight until the law is enacted and after. The several million demonstrators in the street for several months will get the better of the government. If there was ever a time to not give up, it's now."
“Our cathedral is burning and we are looking elsewhere,” Emmanuel Macron could have proclaimed on Friday, visiting the Notre-Dame site. "Staying a course is my motto," he said. The tone was not joking. It is a little after 10 a.m. this Friday, April 14 when the forecourt of the most famous of churches in France is evacuated on the Ile de la Cité. The weather is gray, the rain irregular and the fog makes it difficult to see the horizon. Several dozen gendarmes are mobilized to secure the arrival of the President of the Republic. A few minutes later, the Head of State, accompanied by the First Lady, the Minister of Culture and the Archbishop of Paris, put on his white helmet and construction suit.
Head held high, he scrutinizes the progress of the work. The Élysée ensures it, Emmanuel Macron goes there to "find that the objective of returning the building to worship and visit before the end of the year 2024 will be met". "It's when you set a course with ambition that you can move," he says, four years to the day after the Notre-Dame fire. A barely veiled quote, a few hours before the decision of the Elders on pensions.
He knows it, all eyes are on 2 rue de Montpensier, address of the Constitutional Council, located not far from the cathedral. Almost all unknown, the nine Sages became in a few weeks the protagonists of the final situation of an interminable book. For several hours, gendarmerie trucks, barricades and water cannons have been installed near the building to prevent possible friction. A few meters away, on the nearest pedestrian crossing, the journalists are lined up horizontally, cameras on the tripod, waiting for the final decision. Blue helmet and transparent visor, the CRS and mobile gendarmes are also ready. A device already in place the day before for the twelfth day of mobilization against the reform. For a few hours, the Constitutional Council becomes a besiegeable citadel. But this is not the time for clashes.
At 2 p.m., a student demonstration set off from the Gare Saint-Lazare towards the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. Célia, 22, a third-year law student, has no hope but intends to mobilize again regardless of the decision of the Constitutional Council. “I hope that the demonstrations will not stop and especially that the RIP [referendum of shared initiative, note] will come to disrupt the agenda of the executive because there is a real problem of democracy today in France. When all the polls tell you that 75% of French people are against it, it's not a question of cloistering yourself in your office at the Élysée and preparing laws, whether constitutional or not," she asserts. . Left-wing parliamentarians submitted a second RIP request on Thursday April 13 for "greater security", according to the boss of socialist senators Patrick Kanner.
Emmanuel Macron invited the intersyndicale to come and discuss at the Élysée on Tuesday, April 18. A proposal refused by them. "We will not discuss until the reform is withdrawn," proclaimed François Hommeril, general secretary of the CFE-CGC. The Head of State could therefore work alone on the next labor law. Even though its basic objective was to resume measures… from the unions.