French constitutional court rejects 2nd bid for referendum on pensions

Paris, May 3 (EFE).- France’s Constitutional Council rejected Wednesday a second application for a referendum on President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular overhaul of the pension system, whose main element is an increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The law, which polls show is opposed by 70 percent of the French, was enacted April 15 – a day after the council turned down the first request for a referendum – and is intended to take effect in September.

The second request was signed by 253 members of parliament, most of them from the leftist coalition comprising La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), the Greens, the Socialists, and the Communists.

As they did last month, the nine members of the Constitutional Council concluded that the proposed ballot question did not meet the standard for a referendum.

In the 15 years since provision for a referendum was added to France’s constitution, not one application for a vote has been approved.

La France Insoumise’s parliamentary leader, Mathilde Panot, criticized the council’s decision, but insisted that “nothing is lost.”

She urged French people to take to the streets on June 6 for what would be a 14th nationwide mobilization against the higher retirement age.

The leftist CGT, the second-largest of France’s labor confederations, denounced the Constitutional Council for denying the population a chance to express themselves on “such a fundamental issue.”

Also opposed to the pension overhaul, the far-right National Rally has proposed a bill in parliament to overturn Macron’s plan, which was rammed through the legislature without a vote by resort to a controversial constitutional mechanism.

The National Rally initiative could come to a vote on June 8.

Though the leftist coalition (NUPES) and the Rally together make up a plurality of lawmakers, the repeal cannot pass without garnering support from Les Republicains, a conservative party that is broadly in favor of raising the retirement age.

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Paris to protest against the pension overhaul on the occasion of International Workers Day.

It was the first May Day since 2009 that all of France’s major labor organizations joined in calling for demonstrations.

More than 290 people were arrested nationwide and scores of police were injured, according to the Interior Ministry.

Liberation newspaper reported that both the CGT and the larger, more moderate CFDT have gained 30,000 new members during the course of the protests against raising the retirement age.

The daily pointed out that with 140,000 members, even the relatively modest Christian Democratic-oriented CFTC union outnumbers the combined ranks of the National Rally, Les Republicains, and Macron’s center-right Renaissance. EFE atc/dr

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