After raising the retirement age, but not giving legislators a vote, the French president was booed by parliament
France is at the brink of a “democratic collapse”, Emmanuel Macron was warned last evening after he rammed through parliament his unpopular reform to pensions without a vote.
While the opposition claimed that the controversial move was a denial or admission of democracy, and an admission of weakness, unions warned that it was tantamount war.
On Thursday night, several thousand protestors gathered at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Fires were lit, and police clashed with them.
Elisabeth Borne announced, to chants of “La Marseillaise”, and “resign” in opposition, that her minority government would trigger Article 49.3 (which bypasses a vote).
She declared, in scenes of tension: “We cannot risk the future of pensions. This reform is essential.”
During an Elysee crisis meeting, Mr Macron told ministers that the “financial risk” of not passing the reform was too great.
France Unbowed, the hard Left party, and Marine Le Pen’s hard-Right National Rally said that they would support a proposal from an independent centrist MP group to submit a joint motion of no confidence.
If it passes, the prime Minister will likely resign. Mr Macron could also dissolve parliament.
If it fails, the more likely outcome is that opposition groups will seek to reverse the reform by appealing to the constitutional council or seeking to have a referendum. This requires support from a fifth of parliamentarians as well as a tenth the voting population (or 4.87 million).Macron is a reformist who has set his sights on passing the reform to increase the retirement age to 64 years by 2030.
The seemingly simple change that Macron camps insists is necessary to prevent the pay-as you-go system from collapsing has provoked massive union and public backlash.
Two-thirds (or more) of French support a series of large strike protests that began in January but have not been able to influence government decision making.
While the majority-Right Senate approved the legislation on Thursday morning (though a vote in lower house National Assembly was scheduled for the afternoon), it was so uncertain that Ms Borne decided to evade it.
“We cannot risk 175 hours of parliamentary discussion falling apart. She told MPs that we cannot risk the compromise reached by the two assemblies being rejected.Around 60 members of the opposition Republicans (LR), who were kingmakers, decided the fate of the bill. Many remained determined to resist the reforms, despite them being practically identical to those the Republicans have called for since long.
Macron would have suffered a major setback if the government lost, less than one year after his second term. Macron ran on a manifesto that included a central promise to raise the retirement age to maintain the country’s generous social assistance model.
On Wednesday night, Mr Macron stated that he would let the lower house vote on the text. However, after the crisis talks on Thursday morning he changed his mind.
According to reports, he told ministers that although his presidency wasn’t on the line, he considered that the financial and economic risk were too great not to push for the reform without a vote.
He said that democracy would be protected as a confidence vote would occur.
Ms Le Pen, however, blasted the decision and demanded Ms Borne’s resignation. She said that “this last-minute resort at 49.3 was an extraordinary sign of weakness” and added: “She must go.”
Mathilde Panot of the Leftist France Unbowed in parliament said that the move meant that there was no legitimacy for the bill and that it marked an alarming “authoritarian turning moment”.Aurelien Pradel, a Renegade Republican, suggested that the decision to bypass parliament was an indication of France’s “democratic collapse”.
Some MPs even voiced criticism of Mr Macron’s Renaissance group.
Eric Bothorel, MP, stated that “we should have put it up for a vote.” “We owe that to the opposition, and to those who showed their disapproval in a calm but dignified way. Democracy would have spoken, regardless of whether it was defeated or won.
“I can’t decide between anger and disappointment.”
According to opinion polls, around eight in ten people opposed this type of legislating, and a growing number are losing faith in French democracy. Antoine Bristielle is a Paris think tank that has consulted on public opinion.Although the Macron government has used 49.3 to pass the budget and other laws, constitutionalists argue that this is unusual to even consider putting a large-scale reform to a vote.
Unions warn that a return to a democratic loophole would encourage more radical protests following weeks of calm demonstrations and rolling strikes.
Olivier Faure, head of Socialist Party, said that such an action could cause “an uncontrollable rage”. Protesters outside Parliament could be heard shouting “general strike” during the announcement.
Jean-Pierre, a French state sovereign fund la Caisse des depots worker, stated: “It is totally illegitimate, but the Macron government is stuck in dogma and pushing forward instead of listening, exchanging or giving up.”
Laurent Berger (head of the CFDT), France’s largest union, stated that more demonstrations are planned.
Philippe Martinez, head of the hard-Left CGT union said that “[this] must lead to an equal response to the contempt shown the people.” Protests and strikes should be coordinated.”
Paris continues to suffer from the litter blight of 7,000 tonnes.
Laurent Nunez was the police chief in the capital. On Wednesday night, Anne Hidalgo was informed by the government that it would “requisition”, workers. This would mean that some workers would have to return to work under threat.
Ms. Hidalgo has called the protests “fair”, but her office has contracted private refuse companies for rubbish removal in certain areas, such as in front of schools or creches.
Workers from the CFE CGC trade union in south France claimed Wednesday that they cut electricity to the presidential island retreat in Mediterranean used by Macron for his summer vacations.