The French government decided to approve the pension reform without submitting it to a final vote in the National Assembly, which was scheduled for this Thursday. Faced with uncertainty over the outcome of the referendum vote, the prime minister resorted to a constitutional article that allows legislation to be enacted by decree.
When Élisabeth Borne took to the pulpit to officially announce the decision that was already all over the press, MPs from the left began to sing Marseille incessantly holding signs against the increase in the statutory retirement age from 62 to 64 years. This is the most controversial measure in the diploma presented by Emmanuel Macron’s executive and the one that has led to almost non-stop strikes in several sectors and brought thousands of people to the streets.
He literally screamed, while the benches continued to sing and shout, that the Prime Minister announced in Parliament the recourse to Article 49.3 of the Constitution – that is, that the government adopted the pension reform without voting for it. “Uncertainty is a few votes away,” explained Élisabeth Borne. “We cannot run the risk of seeing 175 hours of parliamentary debate collapse, we cannot run the risk of seeing the compromise reached by the two houses fail.”
Bourne emphasized that the text that the government will adopt is the one that emerged from the negotiation of MPs and senators that took place on Wednesday in the joint parity committee. “In your reform, in the Parliament’s text, I am ready to take my responsibilities,” said the prime minister.
This argument does not apply to the opposition benches, which immediately announced that they would submit motions of censure. If any of them are approved, the law does not come into force and the Government falls.
Marine Le Pen, head of the bench of the National Union, was the first to announce a motion of censure and guaranteed that it would vote in favor of those that might be submitted by other parties. “How can the government still inspire the slightest confidence in the French?” the far-right parliamentary leader said, adding that the use of Article 49.3 represented a “personal failure” of Emmanuel Macron.
The viability of the censure proposals seems unlikely, however, since the leader of Os Republicanos has announced that he will not support any text in this sense. Even if they come together, the votes of the left and far right are insufficient to bring down the executive. “The crisis situation in our country would not allow us to deal a fatal blow to our democracy and institutions. We will never join an alliance of extremists,” said Eric Ciotti.
There were already protesters at the door of the Assembly ahead of the meeting, but hundreds began heading there as soon as Borne announced his decision. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of A França Insubmissa and guardian in the alliance of leftist parties NUPES, was one of them. “The National Assembly has the final word, this is how it is in all the parliamentary democracies of the world,” protested the former presidential candidate. “We could see that there is no presidential majority, that it’s a minority that fell apart before our eyes.”
“Obviously there will be new demonstrations, because the opposition is extremely strong,” Laurent Berger, leader of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT), which represents 875,000 workers, told reporters. Philippe Martinez, general secretary of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), called on the protesters to give a response “commensurate with this contempt for the people”.