France: Macron imposes the pension reform by decree and faces a motion of no confidence and new protests | International | The USA Print

It is a declaration of impotence and at the same time a risky decision that can turn the street on again and activate a vote of no confidence that brings down the French government. Emmanuel Macron, without a sufficient majority in the National Assembly, has decided this Thursday that he will resort to the route of the decree to adopt the pension reform, a project that tests his ability to reform France. The French president has ordered his prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, to activate article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the adoption of a law without a vote.

The news was released a few minutes before the start of the vote in the National Assembly, at 3:00 p.m. Macron concluded that he could not count on enough deputies to reach a majority. The accounts did not come out. He urgently convened a Council of Ministers, and opted for the express and unilateral route.

The opposition, to stop the reform that would increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, now has one last option: present a motion of no confidence in the Borne government and win it. You have 24 hours to do it.

When Borne was going to speak before the chamber, a good part of the deputies began to sing The marsellesa, in an environment of unusual agitation. Deputies from La Francia Insumisa, the anti-capitalist party that leads the left in France, carried signs that read: “64 years, it is no!”. The President of the Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, suspended the session for two minutes. When restarting, still amid chants and shouts of “resignation, resignation”, Borne declared that, in accordance with the constitutional formula, “it compromised the responsibility of the Government”, and assumed that, in the next few days, one or several motions of resignation would be voted on. censorship against him. “Democracy will thus have the last word,” she added.

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The outcome of the pulse for pensions, after two months of social mobilizations and strikes that have partially paralyzed transport and other sectors and have flooded Paris with garbage, is partly the consequence of the legislative elections last June. In those elections, Macron’s supporters obtained more deputies than anyone else, but they lost their absolute majority and remained in the minority.

If any of the motions of censure succeed, the reform will be shelved and the Government will fall. The president has warned in the past that, if a motion were successful, he would dissolve the Assembly to call new legislative elections. These could lead to a new parliamentary majority and a new government. Another option to stop the law is an appeal before the Constitutional Council.

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In the legislature that began in June 2022, both the left and the extreme right have presented several motions of censure, but all have failed by not concentrating the opposition vote. They could win it if, to the votes of the left and the extreme right, a part of the votes of Los Republicanos (LR), the traditional right-wing party, are added.

“It is the confirmation of a total failure of Emmanuel Macron,” said Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Regroupment party, the first group of the parliamentary opposition. “But the institutions allow censoring a government and not a president of the Republic, so, since we respect the institutions, we will censor the government.”

In the Council of Ministers, Macron said, according to the BFMTV chain, that for political interest he would have risked putting the law to a vote, since his burden is not in danger. But he appealed to a higher interest. “I think that, as things stand, the financial and economic risks are too great,” he said. “That is why I authorize you to use the 49.3″. The president’s argument is that the increase in the retirement age is necessary to balance the system’s accounts in a context of demographic aging. The detractors of the reform question the urgency and argue that it harms the working classes and women.

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Laurent Berger, general secretary of the moderate CFDT union, stated: “By resorting to 49.3, the government has shown that it lacks a majority to postpone the legal retirement age by two years. You have to listen to the workers when you want to make decisions about their work”. Berger announced new mobilizations.

Protesters against the French government’s pension reform, this Thursday in Paris. Lewis JOLY (AP)

In the morning, the Senate, controlled by the conservatives of LR, had adopted with 193 votes in favor and 114 against the law that increases the retirement age from 62 to 64 years and that accelerates the requirement of contributing 43 years to collect the full pension. But the fate of the reform, its definitive adoption or its rejection, depended on the National Assembly. There Macron’s supporters form the first bloc in number of deputies, but they lack an absolute majority and needed the votes of the conservative opposition to adopt it.

The 49.3, which Borne has already used 10 times since the start of the legislature, was the last resort for Macron and the most dangerous. It is legitimate and constitutional, but the Government runs the risk of throwing more fuel into the protests and strikes against a reform that, according to polls, is rejected by two out of three French people. The decree will feed the argument according to which Macron lives divorced from the citizenry and the reform is democratically lame, because he does not have a majority in Parliament.

Macron decided to resort to article 49.3 after meeting several times throughout the day with Borne and the leaders of his parliamentary group, and concluding that he lacked sufficient support to adopt the law in the National Assembly. Macron lacked more votes from The Republicans, the historical party of the moderate right. This formation has been demanding for years to increase the retirement age, but among its deputies a part were reluctant to go against the mainstream in public opinion or to become a crutch for the centrist. LR has 61 seats. Macron, 250. The majority was in the 289.

The unions and the opposition feel victorious. The Republicans are left in a bad position, after their leaders were unable to convince their deputies to support a reform that bore their own stamp. Macron is also in a bad position, but, if the motions of no confidence fail, he will be able to say that he has fulfilled his promise: to be, by good means or by more expeditious means, a reformist president.

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