This time, the government can no longer ignore that it has a problem.

With 1.27 million demonstrators everywhere in France, according to the police, and 2.8 million according to the CGT, the second day of mobilization against the pension reform, Tuesday January 31, once again showed the determination of the opponents to retreat from the legal retirement age to 64 years.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne got the message.

She hastened to react a few minutes after the announcement of official figures showing a stronger mobilization than on January 19.

"The pension reform raises questions and doubts. We hear them. The parliamentary debate is opening. It will make it possible, in transparency, to enrich our project with a goal: to ensure the future of our pay-as-you-go system. C It's our responsibility!” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening.

The pension reform raises questions and doubts.

We hear them.

The parliamentary debate opens.

It will allow, in transparency, to enrich our project with a goal: to ensure the future of our pay-as-you-go system.

It is our responsibility!

— Elisabeth BORNE (@Elisabeth_Borne) January 31, 2023

The head of government is well aware that public opinion is on the side of the demonstrators: 72% of French people say they are opposed to the pension reform, according to an Elabe poll for BFM TV published on January 25.

A figure up six points from the previous week and which could still climb.

To avoid shipwreck, it is therefore time for clogging.

As indicated in the communication from the government on Tuesday evening in response to the day of strike, the urgency is now to do everything possible to save the agreement concluded in early January with the Les Républicains (LR) party.

>> To read: Pension reform: in Paris, revolted and determined demonstrators

The Renaissance, MoDem and Horizons deputies having only a relative majority in the National Assembly, the Prime Minister needs the votes of the 62 LR and related deputies if she intends to have her text voted without using 49.3 or 47.1 – two articles of the Constitution allowing the government to pass by force without the slightest vote.

Close ranks with MPs Les Républicains

However, the unity of this alliance has continued to crack since the presentation of the bill on January 10, with at least 16 LR deputies who would vote against the reform at this stage, according to a survey by Radio France.

Very established throughout France, these elected officials had the opportunity to appreciate, on January 19 and 31, to what extent the French – including a certain number of their voters – were opposed to the reform.

The mobilization was thus particularly strong in cities where demonstrations are usually rare or little followed: in Alès, Châteauroux, Boulogne-sur-Mer or Sète, several thousand people marched to say no to 64 years.

>> To read: Pension reform: who are the winners and the losers?

Worse, fault lines have also appeared in recent days within the majority itself, with several deputies saying out loud that they refused to vote for the text as it stands, like the former Minister for the Ecological Transition. , Barbara Pompili, or MoDem MP Richard Ramos, who spoke of a "not fair" law.

They are at least 12 to be opposed to the reform to date, still according to Radio France.

To get the executive out of the impasse, the Minister of Action and Public Accounts, Gabriel Attal, was sent Tuesday evening to the 8 p.m. set of TF1.

After having testified to his "deep respect for the French who are mobilizing", the latter especially recalled the concessions already granted to LR on the age of departure which "has gone from 65 to 64", the revaluation of small pensions which "should only be for new retirees" and which "will also be for current retirees", as well as progress on hardship.

Possible arrangements at the margin

However, the Minister opened the door to adjustments, as a sign of goodwill, on two subjects.

"We can still improve things on the employment of seniors with new proposals. On certain situations of French people who started working early or who had difficult jobs, there too we can continue to enrich the project", a- he asserted.

🔴#Retraites@GabrielAttal: "It's never too late to talk to each other. We can improve things on the employment of seniors and for the French who started working early or with difficult jobs, there too, we can enrich the project."#LE20H by @GillesBouleau

— TF1Info (@TF1Info) January 31, 2023

On the other hand, women have obviously misunderstood the implications of the pension reform which "also advances [their] situation", according to Gabriel Attal, the latter closing the door to specific measures concerning them.

Will these signals be enough to extinguish social protest?

Because beyond the deputies, who examine until Wednesday evening the text in committee before it arrives on February 6 in the hemicycle, it is also to the French that the Minister of Public Accounts was addressing, who insisted that France “will have a big problem paying retirement pensions in the years to come” if nothing is done.

>> To read: Pensions: is the reform "indispensable", as the government claims?

Not sure.

Because, like the declarations of Elisabeth Borne, on Sunday, who affirmed that the postponement of the retirement age to 64, coupled with the acceleration of the extension of the contribution period, "it is no longer negotiable", Gabriel Attal made it clear that there was no possible alternative.

The showdown with opponents of the pension reform should therefore continue and perhaps even intensify.

The intersyndicale announced Tuesday evening two new days of mobilization for Tuesday 7 and Saturday 11 February.

Faced with a possible hardening of the movement, the executive is making the risky bet of a sacred union with Les Républicains and a possible weariness, in the long term, of the French.

For the moment, the government boat is still afloat and maintaining the course.

The next few days will tell if he can continue to move forward for a long time.

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