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After Macron’s use of ‘nuclear option’ on unpopular pension reform, what’s next?

The French government used Article 49.3 of the constitution to pass President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform without a vote in the National Assembly on Thursday, with possible consequences. These include a motion of no confidence in the government, the dissolution of parliament and ongoing street protests. FRANCE 24 breaks down the opposition and presidential options.

Opponents of pension reform still have cards to play after Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne on Thursday invoked her powers under Article 49.3 of the constitution to allow the government to pass bills without a vote in the House of Commons parliament. They hope to force the government to make concessions ahead of the controversial law, which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

In the words of the representative of the Paris region, a member of the left-wing NUPES (New People’s Union for Ecology and Society), opposition lawmakers want to “use all means” to push through pension reform. These include backing organized protests, a vote of no confidence in the government, a referendum that could kill reforms, and an appeal to France’s constitutional council.

vote of no confidence in the government

Opposition delegates chanted after Borne cited 49.3 Marseillaise, the French national anthem, and held a placard saying “No!” Delegates from two parliamentary groups cast votes of no confidence in the cabinet she leads as she retires at 64.The first from the LIOT group (for Libertés, Indépendants, Outre-mer et Territoires) made up of centrists and moderates, the second from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (National Assembly or registered nurse).

The multi-party motion of the LIOT group, co-signed by the left-wing NUPES group, has made the government even more worried.It can be supported by other members of the left, the far right, or even the center right republicans (LR), who want to overturn the government and its pension reforms. So with both the left and the right opposing Macron, the small LIOT group finds itself at a juncture.

A vote of no confidence must be submitted within 24 hours of the government triggering Article 49.3, and debate can then begin 48 hours later, at a time set by a parliamentary body made up of representatives in different leadership positions. Parliament will begin debating two no-confidence votes on Monday, March 20, at 4pm Paris time. A successful no-confidence vote must be supported by an absolute majority of delegates – currently 287 – which prevents a simple majority from overthrowing the government with the help of abstentions.

With this requirement, the vote is unlikely to pass. Even with the support of all 149 delegates from NUPES, 88 from RN and 20 from LIOT, the motion would still lose by 32 votes.To overcome this deficit, more than half of the republicans Although party president Éric Ciotti opposes such a move, delegates need to support it, too.That means a successful vote would require support from Macron’s own unlikely defectors regeneration party or his parliamentary allies in modern times and visions.

If either of the no-confidence votes succeeds, the government will fail to pass the pension reform law. Macron would then have the option of appointing a new prime minister, or retaining his trust in Borne — in this case, dissolving the National Assembly, the only time since French President Charles de Gaulle founded the country in 1962 to pass such a decision. The move to vote in the French Fifth Republic.

>> Debate: At what price does the French government override pensions over parliament?

dissolve parliament

Macron has mentioned dissolving parliament as a recurring threat since last June’s legislative elections gave his party only a relative majority.On the eve of forcing through pension reform, it remains a threat, hopefuls get republicans Lawmakers who were reluctant to vote in favor of the bill.

Following in the footsteps of de Gaulle, the idea of ​​dissolving parliament after a no-confidence vote will no doubt please Macron. Even some of his supporters see new legislative elections as a solution to the post-49.3 situation.anonymous regeneration Using a buildup of 49.3 amounts to a “crash,” the lieutenant said. We need to disband” — which would boost Macron’s political capital with subsequent electoral victories.

But this strategy is risky. In 1997, then-president Jacques Chirac tried, but lost his parliamentary majority. If Macron takes the risk, he could have the same thing happen in 2023.

It is difficult to predict which political party will win the new legislative elections. The left of NUPES could use the popular movement against pension reform to gain more seats. But observers warn that the far-right RN, who thrives on growing discontent in French society, is the most likely winner. Parliament may then be more fragmented than ever before, making the existence of a majority impossible.

more protests and strikes

The next phase of the pension reform saga will also be on the streets. After the government decided to use 49.3, trade union groups in France met and condemned the “denial of democracy” and the “use of force” for passing the bill.

“Today, it is this exemplary social movement that shows the failure of the President of the Republic and his government before the National Assembly,” read a statement from France’s eight main trade unions.

The inter-union group called for “local rallies” over the weekend of March 18 and a ninth day of strikes and protests across France on Thursday, March 23.

After weeks of peaceful mobilization, street protests are likely to intensify in a way that is not controlled by unions. Following the use of 49.3 in Borne, several spontaneous demonstrations took place in French cities, resulting in multiple incidents and arrests.

>> French unions see yellow vests repeat in Macron’s retirement plans

Towards a referendum?

The NUPES left tends to keep several options open in the fight against Macron’s pension reforms.If the vote of no confidence fails, a process called Participate in a plebiscite for initiatives (Referendum on Common Initiatives, or RIP) might be another option.

A constitutional tool available to parliamentarians, the RIP allows a referendum on a bill if it is supported by 185 French lawmakers (577 members of the lower house and one-fifth of the 348 upper house senators). The RIP must also gain the support of 4.87 million French voters, or one in 10, and their signatures must be collected within nine months.

Socialist deputy Valerie Rabote, vice-president of parliament, said the procedure would allow opponents of the pension scheme “to block the implementation of the reforms for nine months”. But “if RIP is triggered” [the question of] Pensions, “it has to be before the law”, she said.

However, according to Stéphane Peu, a representative of the French Communist Party who, along with Rabo, is a member of the NUPES, since March 14, two days before Born invoked 49.3, the left-wing coalition has gained the necessary Supported by 185 lawmakers. Peu’s bill would propose a “retirement age not exceeding 62,” he said.

constitutional council

If the vote of no confidence fails, RIP is not the last option for the opponent. “If the text is adopted by vote, there will be several appeals to the Constitutional Council,” LIOT representative Charles de Courson said on March 14.

Far-left leader Mathilde Panot unyielding france The (France Unbowed, LFI) party promised in parliament that the left would appeal to parliament. NUPES will argue that the reforms included in the social security budget are conditionalities attached to the legislation because the text deals with more than just fiscal issues.

Left representatives intend to rely on French opinion executive council (The Council of State) has warned the government that some of the measures in its pension reform plan and the plan’s lack of clear calculations may be unconstitutional.

This article is translated French original.

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