The Brief — Macron forgets how to count – EURACTIV.com
The first rule of politics, said US President Lyndon Johnson, is “to be able to count”.
Johnson earned a reputation in the US Senate as a ruthlessly efficient majority leader, and his ability to count votes enabled his administration and the Kennedy administration to pass the landmark civil rights and welfare legislation that, nearly 60 years later, is still largely used are intact .
Emmanuel Macron has always been a good teller. How else to explain the seemingly effortless rise to French President of a politician who started with no political party but in about seven years destroyed the left and right parties that dominated politics in the Fifth Republic?
This week’s decision to use the powers of the presidential decree in the constitution to push through an unpopular but economically logical pension reform is probably Macron’s biggest political misjudgment.
Without an overall majority in the National Assembly, he would always rely on opposition MPs, mostly from the centre-right, to back reforms that raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64.
It appears Macron didn’t realize the numbers were too tight until the eleventh hour and decided the “financial and economic risks” existed [of losing] are too big” to bring the proposals to a parliamentary vote.
The implementation of the reforms via presidential decree underscores the extent of the power vested in the French Presidency. But it is also a clear sign of weakness.
Macron’s critics, including Communist MP Fabien Roussel, say the move amounts to “denial of democracy”. While that’s not entirely true, given that pension reform was the focus of Macron’s successful re-election campaign last May, it’s rhetoric that will likely resonate well on the streets where the pension-reform battle is now being fought.
Therein lies a lesson from history.
Johnson’s presidency and legacy were derailed not at the ballot box or in Congress but by the level of public opposition to the Vietnam War.
The president may be less than a year into his second term, but there are no question marks over his job security, although it could be different for his prime minister, Élisabeth Borne.
The legacy of the Macron presidency is less certain. If the public protests and nationwide strikes of recent weeks escalate into a possible general strike, it will further embolden the left and far right ranks in Parliament and threaten the Borne government’s remaining ability to pass legislation.
If Macron is to inherit in the next four years, he must learn to count again.
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Finally, don’t forget to check out our Agrifood Brief: Schrodinger’s Food Security and Tech Brief: GPAI Commitments, CRA Life Extension.
Watch out for …
- EU Commissioner Vĕra Jourová speaks at the conference “The Future is Digital: Getting up to Speed for the Digital World” on Saturday.
- Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica on an official visit to New York, Monday-Wednesday.
[Edited by Alice Taylor/Nathalie Weatherald]