The New StatesmanThe New Statesman

Is Emmanuel Macron running out of options?

By Ido Vock

02 May 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

In this piece, I explain why Emmanuel Macron has maneuvered himself into a political impasse, and why he doesn't seem to have any good options left after the pension reform debacle.

When Charles De Gaulle introduced France’s Fifth Republic in 1958, he spoke of the need for a “national referee” who would “exist above political quarrels”. The result was the creation of the most powerful presidency in the democratic world, entrusted with a litany of authoritarian powers and largely unconstrained by a marginalised parliament.

It is one of those autocratic powers that has sparked the gravest political crisis of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency. On 16 March, lacking a majority in parliament, Macron invoked article 49.3 of the Fifth Republic’s constitution, which empowers the government to force through laws without a vote in parliament, in order to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The decision has backfired. On 23 March a million people across the country marched in protest, both at the reform and the way it was passed. Demonstrations are increasingly turning violent: in Bordeaux protesters set fire to the city hall, while in Paris small groups fought with police. A planned visit by King Charles was postponed, probably because the president's advisers were worried about how Macron meeting a monarch in the Palace of Versailles would look.

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