Opposition intensifies against French President Emmanuel Macron and his government following the forcible passage of the pension reform bill, with opposition parties preparing to submit motions of no confidence, while anger escalates in the street.
Almost unanimously considering resorting to Article 49.3 of the constitution to adopt the bill without a vote in the National Assembly, a setback for Macron, who mortgaged his political assets for the sake of this reform, making it the most prominent project of his second presidential term.
After the government’s adoption of reform by force, opponents will seek to push the executive branch into a political crisis.
Three formations are likely to file no-confidence motions before the mid-afternoon deadline: the far-right National Rally, the left-wing Nobis coalition, and a small breakaway centrist group.
It will be voted on after at least 48 hours, most likely on Monday. In order to overthrow the government, an absolute majority of deputies must be gathered. This seems difficult to achieve, given the relative majority owned by the government coalition, while the right-wing “Republican” party, which plays a pivotal role, has confirmed that it will not vote for any of them. But some recalcitrant Republicans may deviate from the official consensus line at the party level.
“We are facing a democratic problem because this text, which will change the lives of the French, will be adopted without the slightest vote in the National Assembly,” said Republican representative Aurelien Pradier to BFMTV. He added, “Everyone should appreciate the seriousness of the situation and the danger of democratic estrangement that our country faces.”
In turn, the unions will seek to breathe new life into the demonstrations and strikes that have affected the lives of the French since mid-January, and whose momentum has begun to decline.
The unions called for gatherings on Friday, March 17, 2023, and during the weekend, in addition to a ninth day of strikes and demonstrations, Thursday, March 23.
And she denounced the passing of the bill by “force,” pointing to “the responsibility that the executive authority bears in the social and political crisis resulting from this decision, which is a real denial of democracy.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday evening, law enforcement forces dispersed demonstrators in the Place de la Concorde, where thousands of protesters had gathered. 310 people were arrested Thursday, including 258 in Paris alone, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced to RTL.
Incidents also occurred in other major cities such as Rennes, Nantes, Amiens, Lille and Grenoble. And in Marseille (south), masked youths smashed the facade of a bank and a billboard, while others set fire to rubbish containers, chanting, “Down with the state, the police and employers,” according to an AFP correspondent.
“I was telling myself that they would respect democracy a little bit,” said Karen Mantovani, a protester in Grenoble. “Obviously I’m very naive so I was surprised, I thought they wouldn’t dare use Article 49.3.” “Everyone is complaining, but without action,” she added, expressing her “anger.”
For her part, Auror Bergi, head of the “Ennahda” bloc (the presidential party) in the National Assembly, on Thursday called on the Minister of the Interior to “mobilize state agencies… to protect the deputies” of the majority.
The government and the opposition accuse each other of pushing the country into violence. Julien Bayou, a member of the Green Party, who belongs to the coalition of left-wing parties (Nobis), accused the government Thursday of being “ready to wreak havoc in the country.”
For her part, Bourne expressed her “great shock” at the behavior of some opposition MPs. And she warned that they “want chaos in the National Assembly and in the street.”
Several days of strikes in the energy, port and waste collection sectors have caused unrest, with more unrest expected on Friday.
In Paris, where tons of waste cover a number of streets, the authorities will call employees to remove the garbage.
According to Elizabeth Bourne, the decision to resort to Article 49.3 of the Constitution was taken “collectively” between the government and the head of state. However, it is widely seen as a setback for Macron after several weeks of talks with political parties and unions.
And the newspaper “Le Monde” considered that passing the bill by force “reveals the isolation of Emmanuel Macron.” “The rest of his five-year term will always face obstacles,” said the left-wing Liberation newspaper. For his part, Laurent Berger, Secretary General of the “French Democratic Confederation of Labor”, spoke of “drown”.
Even an official in the presidential group of the National Assembly considered that “this is a crash.” “The National Assembly must be dissolved and early legislative elections called,” he added, on condition of anonymity.