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LATEST: Constitutional Council approves Macron's controversial French pension reform

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LATEST: Constitutional Council approves Macron's controversial French pension reform
A French gendarme stands guard as a security perimeter is established around France's Conseil Constitutionnel (constitutional council) on the day of a ruling on a contested pension reform. Photo by Ian LANGSDON / AFP

France's constitutional council has approved the key elements of Emmanuel Macron's controversial pension reform - the cause of months of strikes and demos.

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The Constitutional Court, the country's highest authority on constitutional matters, on Friday handed down its ruling on the pension reform - which among other things raises the pension age from 62 to 64.

As there is no appeal against council decisions, a refusal would have been a crushing blow for Macron's government - but the council announced on Friday evening that the major parts of the reform were approved.

It also rejected one request for a referendum on the subject of pension reform - something that could have dragged out the whole issue for at least another year. A second request for a referendum, which was filed at the last minute, will be decided on May 3rd.

It did, however, strike out 6 articles of the reform - including measures to help older people stay in the workforce - although these are not seen as crucial to the reform itself. 

EXPLAINED What is France's Constitutional Council and how does it work?

This is unlikely to be the end of protests over the reform, however, with hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon declaring in response that "the fight continues".

"The fight continues and must gather force," the leader of La France Insoumise (LFI) party said on Twitter. Far-right Rassemblement National (RN) figurehead Marine Le Pen added that the fate of the reform was "not sealed" despite the decision.

Police are expecting up to 10,000 people to gather again in Paris on Friday night, with the presence of several hundred leftwing radicals raising fears of more vandalism and clashes that have marred recent rallies.

The Constitutional Council, a short walk from the Louvre museum in the centre of the French capital, has been protected with barriers, and dozens of riot police are on guard nearby.

Demonstrations had taken place in cities including Paris and Toulouse ahead of the ruling. In the capital, all protest in the vicinity of the court itself has been banned between Thursday and Saturday.

 

The pension reform has been the subject of repeated strikes and demos since January 19th, which have caused widespread disruption to services including flights, trains and city public transport, as well as causing fuel shortages through oil refinery blockades.

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Speaking ahead of the ruling, the heads of France's more militant unions insisted that the fight against pension reform would go on, while the more moderate CFDT union said it would respect the ruling of the council.

Macron's government had originally planned to implement the law by September 1st - the proposed reform gradually increases the pension age from 62 to 64 for most people by 2030. Reporting on Friday suggested that he intends to push ahead with this timetable. 

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

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