“The subject is to know if this reform is of general interest and if in a few years, we will consider that we have done well and managed as a good father”, pleaded, Wednesday March 15 on LCP, the deputy Renaissance of Saône-et-Loire, Louis Margueritte, to defend the pension reform. This is one of the main arguments of the government: the reform, although difficult, is essential. Another argument handled by Elisabeth Borne the same day: that of the legitimacy of institutions, questioned according to her by the senatorial left which constantly opposes the legitimacy of the street.
Is an unpopular reform necessarily illegitimate? There are similarities between the current situation and previous pension reforms: in 2010, Éric Woerth announced his intention to set the legal retirement age at 62, although the proposal was not included in candidate Sarkozy’s program in 2007 The opposition is virulent, the demonstrations repeated and supplied. The right will certainly lose the next presidential election, but without seeing its “legitimacy” as contested as it is today. And the left, once back in power, does not question this reform.
The break with the unions, “an original sin”
“In a state of law, what is legal is legitimate,” recalls Benjamin Morel, lecturer in public law at the University of Panthéon-Assas. “It is not a question of putting an equal sign between institutional democracy and social democracy. The last word must remain with the institutions, otherwise we are in anarchy”, abounds the historian Jean Garrigues. Especially since in this case, the President of the Republic as the relative majority in the National Assembly were elected by carrying this reform project in their program.
However, “the second aspect of legitimacy is also membership,” adds Benjamin Morel. However, this is lacking with a “minority and unpopular government”, which differentiates the current situation from that of 2010. Moreover, “in France, institutional legitimacy is not enough”, observes Jean Garrigues, according to whom, in the French political unconscious inherited from the Revolution, “any reform must be based on the consent of the citizens”.
In the current crisis, beyond the fact of going against the grain of a part of the opinion, it is the opposition of the intermediary bodies which is in question. “The original sin of this reform is the absence of a link with the CFDT”, considers Jean Garrigues, who recalls that “the link had never been broken” between the executive and the reformist union, in 1995 and after.
“We pay thirty years of” right in his boots “”, estimates Benjamin Morel, in reference to the formula used in 1995 by Alain Juppé to show his will to maintain his reform. “By deciding that it is very virtuous not to give in, the various governments have entered into a deadly logic,” he laments. The unions “flew from defeat to defeat”: which weakened them, until the question of their usefulness arose, thus paving the way for the crisis of the yellow vests.
“Democratic frustration will be very strong after this episode”
“Democratic frustration will be very strong after this episode”, he warns, predicting that part of the public “may definitely turn their back on the political game, or that some might want to try ‘something else'”.
In a note devoted to the “political aftermath of a disputed reform” published on March 15, researchers Bruno Palier and Paulus Wagner believe that the pension reform “can only fuel the dynamics of the RN”. Because the “unskilled middle classes” will be the first affected. However, these categories already have “the feeling of being the big losers of economic changes” and “constitute the first reservoir of votes for populist parties of the radical right”.
“From the outset, the pension reform could have been legitimized by an overall consultation on work”, regrets Jean Garrigues. The government has certainly announced a future law in order to respond to the malaise that is expressed in the world of work, but “it’s too late, the damage is done”, according to the historian, who fears a “real cut between politicians and citizens.
Leave a Reply