The French unions claim to have organized for today “a historic May Day.” Fourteen years ago there was no unitary call. The common objective is to raise the final battle on the streets against the delay in the retirement age and, in general, against the politics of Emmanuel Macron.
The day entails a political risk for the president and his government, and also entails a great public order challenge. There will be 12,000 police and gendarmes deployed, 5,000 of them in Paris. It would be a surprise if there were no riots.
The pension reform has already been enacted, after minor tweaks by the Constitutional Council, and Macron obviously does not intend to annul it. The opponents only have a minimal hope left. On Wednesday May 3, the Constitutional Council must rule on a petition to collect signatures to call a popular referendum. A first request in this regard was rejected for legal reasons. This second one has few possibilities a priori, despite being designed differently. If it were admitted, it would be a political bombshell.
The social climate affects the financial solvency of France, as shown by the worst rating from the Fitch agency
The long union pulse resembles a war of attrition. For weeks, to warm the atmosphere, there have been protests in all the trips of Macron and the ministers around the country. It was about keeping the swords high, that the spirits did not decay until arriving at the First of May. A protest was attempted on Saturday during the French Cup soccer final. The result was quite modest. Some fans did show the red card against the pension reform and used the whistles that the unions had distributed, but their action went largely unnoticed due to the roar of the stands and the smoke from the fumigants of the Nantes fans, who consoled themselves thus for the beating that Toulouse was inflicting on them.
Macron is eager to regain the political initiative with new projects and put the pension nightmare behind him. The president trusts in union fatigue and that the divisions between fundamentalists and pragmatists will return. It will indeed be difficult to organize more mobilizations for the summer, although it cannot be ruled out.
Marine Le Pen savors the sweet moment for her party, according to the polls. The leader of the extreme right and former candidate for the Élysée knows that this crisis has strengthened her without doing much or proposing alternatives. Yesterday, in an interview with You parisian Le Pen accused the president of carrying out “social deconstruction” and reminded him that there are only three ways out of the crisis: resignation, dissolution of the National Assembly to call new elections or a popular referendum.
The deterioration of the social climate and the constant anger in the street have consequences in the financial markets. It was one of Macron’s fears if the delay in the retirement age did not go ahead. The solvency of France suffers. A first test was the decision of the Fitch credit agency, last Friday, to lower the grade, from AA to AA-. The French Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, considered that Fitch had made an overly pessimistic assessment of the risks and reiterated the firm will of Paris to continue with the structural reforms. However, concern persists. The Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s agencies already warned in December that they could lower its note. In times of inflation and rising rates, this is very bad news for a highly indebted country.