It is at the heart of the political crisis. Deputy of the Marne since 1993, the centrist Charles de Courson is the dean in longevity of mandate of the Palais-Bourbon. A specialist in public finance, he is one of the (few) parliamentarians who bring the contradiction to the executive on the merits, point by point on the pension reform. And Charles de Courson is a member of the independent group LIOT in the Assembly, which carries one of the two motions of censure – with that of the RN – against the government. This veteran of the Parliament, who knows all the mysteries of it, answers the questions of the Point.

Le Point: Why table this motion of censure?

Charles de Courson: Everyone knows that the RN will have 88 votes, not one more. Ours is transcurrent. We believe that it can bring together, on the right, on the left, in the center, the moderates who want to defend both social and political democracy, to avoid tearing the country apart. If we continue in this way in the parliamentary deadlock, we are clearly moving towards an authoritarian regime. The French people will be tempted by the adventure, as in La Fontaine’s fable where the frogs ask for a king. Anything can happen from now on.

And you don’t mind making some sort of objective alliance with RN and LFI deputies to bring down the government?

We act without exception. We have contacts with both LR and LFI groups. We are in the symbolic, it is true. Afterwards, if we are ten or fifteen votes short of bringing down the Borne government, it does not matter: it is already dead!

Are you worried about the growing anger in the country?

How not to be ? When you talk to the union representatives, they all say that they can no longer contain the violence. It’s getting tough everywhere! I have never seen such a mobilization at home in the Marne, for example. We are usually fairly level-headed. Seven hundred demonstrators in Vitry-le-François, a city of 11,000 inhabitants, is downright unprecedented!

Do you believe in a dissolution of the National Assembly?

I do not believe it. I try to be rational, if there are new legislative elections, the presidential party will suffer a real failure. The debate is crystallized on the pension reform. And everyone is against it. Where are the local relays of the President of the Republic? The king is naked.

Do you see the beginning of a diet crisis?

The situation is very dangerous. Extremist currents have become the majority. There is now among the French the shared feeling of a democracy that no longer works. The President of the Republic has implemented a political philosophy of destruction of all intermediary bodies. We see the result now. Its complete lack of depth and consistency led us to a dead end. The country is becoming ungovernable. France is not only a political democracy but also a social democracy, and Emmanuel Macron has forgotten this by following a Hegelian thought: for him, everything must come from above. Today, he has his own currency.

You who are the longest serving member of the National Assembly, do you consider that the rights of Parliament have been violated?

Clearly, yes, since there is no longer any discussion possible. Without recourse to article 44.3 in the Senate, the text would not have been voted on. It was largely amputated. We can therefore say that the project was voted neither in the National Assembly nor in the Senate. The Joint Joint Commission (CMP), in which I participated, was not representative of the political balance of power in the two chambers: out of seven members for the National Assembly, there were four representatives of what I call the presidential minority… For the Senate, the four representatives of the senatorial majority were all for this text. We were presented with the text of the government and that voted by the Senate, not that of the National Assembly. Another dysfunction: after the first reading in the Assembly, the government sent the Senate a text with article 2, while we, deputies, had voted against by a large majority: 50 votes difference. You should have seen the representatives of Macronist power on the benches during the vote against Article 2, they were stunned. Where is democracy ? They even hid from us the note from the Council of State which emphasizes that article 2 has nothing to do with retirement and that it falls under the Labor Code.

Could the government do anything but draw 49.3?

He had no choice: his back was against the wall. They thought they could make a deal with President LR Éric Ciotti, but this deal did not work. For him, nothing better than 49.3, which avoids showing the divisions within the LRs. Even in the Senate, despite the iron fist of Bruno Retailleau, the scores were tight. Within the LR group, we had 15 to 17% abstention or hostile votes. And among their centrist allies, more than a third of the group voted against the reform or abstained. We have clearly seen in the Assembly the government trying to entice one and the other. In these kinds of circumstances, the most fragile elected officials are the “domiens” and the “tomiens” [the elected officials of the DOM-TOMs, editor’s note]. We at the LIOT group have been spoiled. My colleagues had the right to many beautiful promises. Just before the vote, I was with a fellow LR deputy hostile to this text, his phone rings, he sees Darmanin’s name displayed, he says to me: “I don’t take it, my opinion is made. The use of 49.3 is the symbol of failure. The consequences will be lasting in French democracy.

What are they ?

We have before our eyes the demonstration of what not to do. The power resorted to a legislative vehicle that was intended to impede and prevent debate. It is therefore normal in these conditions that the opponents tensed up. The macronists took it like sleeves. They did not discuss with the unions, they auditioned them. There was never any dialogue with the government. The social partners all had the feeling that everything had been decided before, which is pure truth. Emmanuel Macron has managed the feat of uniting against him the entire trade union movement, from the most radical to the most moderate, a real feat!

What lessons can we learn from this political sequence?

To properly draw all the lessons from this, we have to go back to the thread of events since 2017. When he first ran for president, Emmanuel Macron promised a “notional” (sic) universal points scheme. Don’t know what that means? Me neither ! It is, it seems, an “actuarial” notion… Right from the start, then, we saw who we were dealing with! These people in power knew nothing about pension plans, it is hardly surprising that they are screwing up. They wanted a structural reform to restore the equality of all French people before retirement. Noble intention. The problem is that we are not starting from scratch, but from 42 different diets. So how do you move to one pension plan for all? In 2017, Emmanuel Macron affirms that he will not touch the retirement age at 62 years old. Five years later, in the program for his presidential re-election, he pleads for a passage from 62 to 65 years old… Which means nothing since the age of retirement varies according to the situation. Someone who exercises a liberal profession can leave at 67, and a dancer at 40. But Emmanuel Macron braced himself on this aspect… before joining the 64-year-old. Where is the consistency ? And the Prime Minister announces a reform of social justice, intended in the long term to balance the accounts. But, already, the 17 billion savings expected at the start are massively supported by modest people. For small pensions, professional careers are often chopped up… So basically, from the start, this is an unfair reform.

What are the most unfair examples in your opinion?

They have not tackled the problem of family rights, the source of the greatest inequalities. For example, a female lawyer with four children is only entitled to zero annuity. If she is affiliated to the general scheme, the same mother would be entitled to eight annuities – two per child. Civil servants benefit from an annuity per child or even half an annuity for children born after 2014. We can have a 10% increase in pensions from the third child, except for the Liberals. Civil servants are entitled to 10% for 3 children plus an additional 5% per child up to a limit of 6 children. Do you understand anything about it? Me no !

The moral of the story ?

They have not been at the source of the strongest inequalities. We have just discovered during our discussions within the Joint Joint Commission (CMP) that for those who undergo heavy work in long careers, the increase of two annuities does not apply. In short, it is a reform that is absolutely not structural. Except because it allows the extinction of five regimes. But only five. Why these, and not the others? For example, we do not touch the ENIM regime (National Establishment of Invalids of the Navy). This is the oldest pension scheme, it dates from Colbert in 1673. Perhaps we want to register it in the Inventory of Historic Monuments? In the same way as the regimes that apply to the staff of the Paris Opera or the Comédie-Française, which were created under Louis XIV. Why aren’t we attacking the regime of the President of the Republic either? I proposed that the Head of State be affiliated to the general scheme. Emmanuel Macron committed to it in 2019, he did not. We were promised to make this change by decree. We are still waiting… We are not talking about the regimes of National Assembly and Senate officials either, which are very comfortable, and those of deputies and senators. This pretty world is resting the pension reform on the most modest. It is therefore a technocratic, ill-conceived and fundamentally unjust reform. We find out now.

On the objective of financial recovery, you are also critical…

The mass of pensions from the basic schemes represents 273 billion euros, but if we add the supplementary schemes, we arrive at around 350 to 360 billion euros. The state deficit amounts to 155 billion for expenditure equivalent to 500 billion. Don’t you think it would be rather urgent to tackle the structural deficit of the state? France is the European Union’s worst pupil in terms of public spending, as the President of the Court of Auditors, Pierre Moscovici, recently pointed out. The government’s estimate for 2030 is a €13 billion pension system deficit. With the pension reform, we were initially promised 17.7 billion euros in savings, and we are dropping 5 to 7 billion in various measures. That’s not all, when you take a closer look. In the text submitted to the vote in the National Assembly, we are at 17.7 billion savings estimates. But the compensatory measures represent 7.1 billion. So let’s say that the fruits of this reform only represent 10 billion. But they did not take into account the additional expenses, on Unedic, on the ASS (Specific solidarity allowance), the RSA, and the increase in daily sickness benefits… Or an additional reduction in these savings of around 4 billion euros. In total, we are therefore left with a sum of 7 billion. Or one billion euros each year until 2030. The second argument of the government on the financial advantage of this reform is therefore largely depressed.

Everyone sees it, and for a long time, including within the presidential minority. This is another blow to the credibility of public speech, already degraded by Emmanuel Macron.

You are always pessimistic…

I am a pessimist, by method. For me, the worst hypothesis that is looming is a second round Mélenchon-Le Pen. If so, we know what will happen: the leader of the far right will become President of the Republic.