PARIS — “We have a president who makes use of a permanent coup d’état.” That was the verdict of Olivier Faure, the leader of the French Socialist Party, after President Emmanuel Macron rammed through a bill raising the retirement age in France to 64 from 62 without a full parliamentary vote this past week.
In fact, Mr. Macron’s use of the “nuclear option,” as the France 24 TV network described it, was entirely legal under the French Constitution, crafted in 1958 for Charles de Gaulle and reflecting the general’s strong view that power should be centered in the president’s office, not among feuding lawmakers.
But legality is one thing and legitimacy another. Mr. Macron may see his decision as necessary to cement his legacy as the leader who left France prepared to face the rest of the 21st century. But to many French people it looked like presidential diktat, a blot on his reputation and a blow to French democracy.
Parliament has responded with two motions of no confidence in Mr. Macron’s government. They are unlikely to be upheld when the lawmakers vote on them next week because of political divisions in the opposition, but are the expression of a deep anger.
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President Emmanuel Macron saw his decision to push through a change in the retirement age as necessary, but the price may be high.