“Executive power uses a trick to eliminate the conflict”

SERVICE – Elisabeth Borne said on January 3 that “the retirement age of 65 is not a totem.” For Benjamin Morel, this declaration is part of a communication strategy that aims to avoid large-scale social movements without giving up the basics.

Benjamin Morel is a lecturer in public law at the Panthéon-Assas University of Paris II.

LE FIGARO. – Elisabeth Borne on Tuesday confirmed her wish to postpone the legal retirement age to 62. Still, he said, 65 is not a “totem.” Should this be seen as a classic political communication strategy of announcing a very strong measure before making a claim?

Benjamin Morel. – The strategy is classic. It’s about starting from a position that is unacceptable to social partners and slowly dropping a few characters. With this, the government hopes to open some cracks in the wall in front of it. Above all, it could allow certain union leaders, notably the CFDT, to claim victory after weeks of conflict and thus avoid weakening their base too much.

It may also help to demobilize a little on the street and pickets, if the symbolic demands are not met, at least after the reduction. Ultimately, this could lead to a weakening of the opposition front by confusing a particular section of the LR without weakening the majority from within. So the maneuver is classic, clever… and terribly predictable, probably too much to be fully effective.

The Prime Minister also announced the withdrawal of the controversial part of the decree on unemployment insurance, which provides for a 40% reduction in the period of compensation if the unemployment rate is below 6%. Is the executive trying to appease the CFDT before the meeting between Elisabeth Borne and Laurent Berger?

The signal cannot be worse than that of social partners. This was bad not only because it was against their demands, but also because it was against the way the reform was presented to them. Trust between the executive and trade unions is already at an all-time high, and such a maneuver could further strengthen it. Indeed, the unions felt cheated, with good reason, and any negotiations with management would become more difficult.

Emmanuel Macron is no longer a program man, he presents himself today as a man of a historical moment.

Benjamin Morel

By conceding to this point, the government opens the way for negotiations without making too many concessions, even though the 6% figure to be reached in 2023 does not seem possible in the economic context. a slight increase in unemployment. Nothing will prevent the government from reviewing the reform framework next year. In the short term, this gives the unions a sense of winning the battle, but it is clear that the government is not interested in having leaderships that are weakened and overwhelmed by their base, as they are facing. these last months. This is the best way to witness a conflict that bogs down due to lack of interlocutors and breaks down due to lack of limits.

Doesn’t the executive run the risk of alienating the LREM electorate?

It is impossible. During his first five-year term, Emmanuel Macron was deeply guided by the idea that if he did not have a stable political identity, he had an elected program and that this foundation, the contract between him and his voters, made this possible. To ensure the integrity of the LREM database. It took long enough. Even after the Yellow Vest crisis, many of the president’s conclusions from the major debates paradoxically lead to the revival of the dormant legislative process. It is not certain that this political fiction has as much basis in public opinion as it does in the minds of the strategists of the majority.

In any case, between 2019 and 2022, it was destroyed by a succession of crises and a change in Macron’s electorate. The president is no longer a program person, but presents himself as a person of the historical moment. Moreover, even for the LREM electorate, these reforms are no longer considered a priority, while “at all costs” public opinion has put the deficit figures into perspective, and inflation has made it more urgent. .

We must admit that we could not imagine a worse social context to start this reform.

Benjamin Morel

For the government, the question now is whether there will be demonstrations against the pension reform, rather than whether there will be demonstrations, whether they will be scaled up or not.

The priority for the government is to prevent the conflict from becoming bogged down. To do this, you need to go fast. In any case, there will be large demonstrations against the background of the crisis of purchasing power, and the whole cannot go without political weakening. But in most cases, a final vote on the law is enough to quiet the lawsuits. It is therefore important not to allow the debate to sink in Parliament, which advocates the use of a remedial PLFSS, which is both time-regulated and can be interrupted by the use of Article 49(3) in the Assembly. However, it may adopt another bill dealing with non-financial aspects which will be treated as a rider under PLFSS. We should not remove all opposition to this, because the last 49 clause 3 outside the financial text is unlikely to be sacrificed to this additional text. This explains the dual strategy of relative appeasement on procedural enforcement and substantive reform.

Then, a persistent crisis runs the risk of moving away from social partners to other demands. We must admit that we could not imagine a worse social context to start this reform. In the context of a deep renewal of social movements, unions that are stuck at their foundations, a wider acceptance of violence in politics as shown by the crisis of the yellow vests, and a population that is economically squeezed… The sooner the reform, the less there will be. there will be a danger of losing control… the fact is that seeing the chief executive playing with a match in the middle of an oil field in this case gives a bad impression.

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