Vote of no confidence in France: the government stays, the crisis too

Vote of no confidence in France: the government stays, the crisis too

The two motions of no confidence failed: France’s government is staying, but so is the crisis it triggered with the pension reform.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne sits next to two colleagues in the National Assembly and listens attentively

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne surrounded by colleagues on Monday in the National Assembly Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

PARIS taz/afp | The French government narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly and thus pushed through the controversial pension reform. According to the official voting result, only nine votes were missing up to an absolute majority for a first, cross-party motion of no confidence. A second motion by the right-wing populists, which will then be voted on, has virtually no chance of being accepted.

The government can breathe easy. She had every reason to tremble. For the first time since 1962 there was a real possibility that a majority of MPs would vote to lose confidence in the government. Then Elisabeth Borne would have had to submit the resignation of her cabinet of ministers. She was spared this shame. The government remains, but the crisis that it triggered with the pension reform and fueled with its authoritarian approach also continues.

The government has gone too far because it has never been able to explain or justify the sense and necessity of its reform, because instead it has stubbornly stuck to a plan that three quarters of the citizens reject, and also because it appears to failed to understand that in a democracy you can govern with affronts to the people in the long run. By showing their self-confidence to stand up to impressive union mobilization, President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister have merely exposed their real weakness: this leadership has no majority for and behind it!

What next?

After the two no-confidence motions were rejected on Monday, the pension reform bill is considered passed even without a vote in the National Assembly – that is the rule based on Article 49.3 of the Constitution. The government used this procedure on Thursday because it feared defeat if its reform was voted on in the National Assembly. The President, Emmanuel Macron, now has two weeks to publish a corresponding decree so that the law can come into force. But it wouldn’t be the first time in French history over the last 20 years that a very controversial law ended up never being applied.

First of all, this pension reform, which has been pushed through, still has to clear the hurdle of the constitutional court. Several opposition factions have already announced a series of constitutional lawsuits. It cannot be ruled out that the judges, the “nine wise men” of the Conseil constitutionnel, will object, whether to parts or all of the text, or even to the way in which the government has reduced the parliamentary debate to a minimum by all means and the deputies prevented from voting at the end.

The mobilization will continue at least until the decision of the constitutional court. Spontaneous actions, blockades and new strikes are taking place across the country. Instead of complaining about the disabilities or traffic jams, the people affected show solidarity. There is no doubt that the authorities underestimated the determination of the trade unions and, even more so, the great anger in the population.

Even if Borne does not fall as a result of the motion of no confidence, she is sitting on a sawed-off branch today as Prime Minister. A few days ago she said she was ready to serve as a “fuse” for the President if necessary, so that a short circuit would not result in a fire. In the Fifth Republic, the prime minister is always a designated scapegoat for the president — even if, in this exceptional case, the prime minister is a woman.

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