France: An expected vote in the National Assembly of no confidence in the government, and Macron calls for calm
On Monday, March 20, the French government faces two motions of no-confidence in the National Assembly after it used a provision in the constitution that allowed it to pass a pension reform bill without a vote, while President Emmanuel Macron finally called for calm as social tension intensified in the country.
The government confirms at the present time its confidence about the outcome of the vote on the two memorandums, considering that the divisions in the ranks of the opposition are too great to lead to its overthrow.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopp told Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that in order to pass a motion of no confidence, “a coalition of opponents and opponents must be brought together to achieve a very disparate majority without a common political line.”
For his part, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said, in response to questions from the newspaper “Le Parisien”, “I think there will not be a majority to bring down the government, but it will be a moment of truth.”
On Monday, the National Assembly is considering two memorandums of no-confidence submitted after the government resorted Thursday to Article 49.3 of the constitution, which allows the approval of a text without putting it to a vote.
And after Macron remained silent since Thursday, and he was the one who pushed for the use of this constitutional article, he expressed, in a letter addressed to the presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly, the text of which was received by France Press, his “desire that the text on retirement be able to proceed to the end of its democratic path amid respect for all.”
After two months of consultations and intense union and popular mobilization against the reform project, the most prominent of which is raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 years, the opposition strongly pushed for approval of the text without a vote.
But it must show unity from the far right to the radical left, including the votes of about thirty Republicans (traditional right), to be able to overthrow the government, which has only a relative majority in the National Assembly, and to address pension reform.
Such a scenario seems unlikely, as no government has fallen in France as a result of a no-confidence motion since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958, but it is not impossible at a time when pressure is intense on parliamentarians.
Stones thrown at a political office
The office of Republican Party Chairman Eric Ciotti, who supports the reform project, was stoned on Saturday night in Nice (south) with the words “memorandum or stones” written on it, and other pro-reform MPs were also targeted.
Macron, who is betting on his political balance and the outcome of his second presidential term, affirmed, “his support for parliament and all parliamentarians, and the government’s mobilization in order to take all measures to protect them.”
Demonstrators gathered again Sunday in several French cities, especially in Paris, where the incidents took place Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, denouncing the “denial of democracy.”
On the social front, several key economic sectors remain in turmoil, particularly transportation, waste collection and fuel distribution. Opponents began to stop the largest refinery in France, located in Normandy (northwest), and other sites may follow.
The retirement age in France is among the lowest in Europe, although it is not possible to compare the different systems. The government justifies raising the retirement age by two years by the need to address the decline in the finances of pension funds and the aging of the population.
“Let’s go for clarity. Clarity is the vote,” said Aurore Bergé, head of the majority faction in the National Assembly, in response to questions from the media.
And she added that in the event of the fall of the government, “responsibility must be taken”, with the possibility of Macron resorting to the dissolution of the National Assembly, at a time when his popularity in opinion polls has fallen to 28%, its lowest level since 2019.
However, Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the radical left, rules out such a scenario and believes that Macron will then suffer in the upcoming elections “the defeat of the century, and therefore will not do so,” expecting “the continuation of the struggle, whatever the outcome.”