Emmanuel Macron makes humiliating U-turn – protesters win as President scraps major policy

Emmanuel Macron: Expert discusses 'very low' approval rate

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The French President has abandoned his key election pledge to reform pensions. The biggest post-war changes would have increased the retirement age and merged private and public sector savings into one universal points-based system.

The 43-year-old put the overhaul of the pensions system in his winning 2017 election manifesto and pressed ahead with the sweeping changes in 2019.

Widespread “Gilets Jaunes” or yellow vest protests were triggered in 2018 following plans to hike fuel taxes, but descended into a wider movement against government policy – including pension reforms.

President Macron suspended his pension plans last spring due to the coronavirus pandemic and has now said his proposals cannot go ahead as planned.

He said: “I do not think that the reform as it was originally envisaged can go ahead as such.

“It was very ambitious and extremely complex and that is why it generated anxiety, we must admit that.

“Doing it right now would mean ignoring that there are already a lot of worries.”

The plan would increase the retirement age from 62-years-old to 64.

Early retirement privileges enjoyed by some workers would have also come to an end.

The radical reforms would have cost the government 14 percent of economic output and the coronavirus pandemic has exasperated these costs.

Mr Macron said he would look at the health of the economic recovery before making another announcement on pensions.

He also stressed the need to curb the cost of pensions to a separate reform plan that would see the state increase benefits for the elderly in need of care.

Mr Macron said the country could not pay more to look after the elderly in their own homes “if we have not succeeded in bringing more serenity to our finances, and without raising taxes”.

He added: “There is for me a link to the question of pension reform.”

Frederic Seve, a negotiator with the reform-minded CFDT union, said he was encouraged by the focus on the economic recovery, but warned Mr Macron against pursuing further changes to pensions later in the year.

He said: “It wouldn’t be good for him to unleash unrest over pensions in the autumn.”

France will head to the polls in under 12 months and Mr Macron has kept his cards close to his chest as to whether he will seek a second term in office.

When asked by reporters on Thursday, Mr Macron said it was “too early to say”.

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He added he was determined to “carry things out until the end”.

Despite his coyness, the French President is expected to announce his intention to stand for re-election in April 2022.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally, is set to be his closest rival in the race for the Élysée Palace.

Last week, a poll by the French Institute of Public Opinion for Le Figaro, suggested Mr Macron would win by 54 points to 46 points against Ms Le Pen in the second round of voting.
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