As was widely anticipated after the government’s decision to forcibly implement the pension reform, which sparked violent and protracted protests throughout the country, the National Assembly will discuss a vote of no confidence in the administration on Monday, March 20.
It has only been a short while since Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne stated that the legislation had been approved without being put to the vote by citing constitutional article 49.3, which allows for such a measure. The Bourbon Palace, home to the French lower house of parliament, saw the simultaneous introduction of two motions expressing a lack of confidence in the government’s cabinet of ministers. They want to compel the government to back down before passing the contentious legislation, which includes increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64.
A group of independent deputies and delegates of overseas territories proposed the first of these, and all left-wing factions joined it immediately. These are Insubordinate France party representatives, socialists, greens, and communists. Marine Le Pen and her associates from the National Rally party drafted a new resolution. Marine Le Pen has previously declared that she will back the left’s initiative “for the common cause.” Yet, the left has made it obvious that the National Rally should not rely on their votes.
Whether the opposition would be able to halt the pension measure and oust the existing government was extensively debated in the local press and on television during the whole weekend.
One must recognise that the probability of such a development is tiny, as shown by several calculations. For the National Assembly to vote for no confidence in the cabinet of ministers, at least 287 deputies must support the motion (there are 573 legislators in the lower house now, and four more seats are still vacant). The first and primary resolution is strongly supported by all the lefties, who have 149 votes, together with 16 to 17 additional “independents.” Marine Le Pen has 87 supporters. In total, 254 votes are cast, which is insufficient to choose a winner. Perhaps other members of the relatively conservative Republican faction, who harbour grudges towards Macron for various reasons, will join the opposition to the Born administration. Among the 61 “Republican” deputies, according to all estimates, there will be no more than a dozen or, at the most, one and a half dozen. Again, the advantage is insufficient to achieve the intended outcome.
On the side of Macron, the reform’s instigator, and his administration, “the full presidential army” consists of 250 lawmakers from the Renaissance party, centrists, and others. In addition, at least 40 to 45 “Republicans” who typically support altering the system in the direction of raising the retirement age would join their ranks, according to their estimations. This explains why this party’s leader, Eric Ciotti, instructed his deputies in the National Assembly not to support a vote of no confidence in the administration.
If one of the no-confidence votes passes, the government’s pension reform legislation will be repealed. Macron might then choose to choose a new prime minister or keep his faith in Borne, in which case he could dissolve the National Assembly, as French President Charles de Gaulle did in 1962 during the only such vote held since the establishment of France’s Fifth Republic.
If a vote of no confidence fails, organising a referendum known as a référendum d’initiative partagée (RIP) could be an alternative course of action.
In France, protests continued against the reform and how the government pushed it. Philippe Martinez, the leader of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), called for the strike movement to intensify and expand in the coming days. The oil refining sector’s employees are on strike. Saturday saw the shutdown of the TotalEnergies refinery in Gonfreville-l’Orchey. CGT union coordinator Eric Selini said the situation will persist “at least until the beginning of next week.” On Monday, strikers will shut down the primary production facilities. In this regard, there are issues at petrol stations in several national regions.
In numerous French cities, large-scale demonstrations continue. These events took place in Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Marseille, and Brest. Saturday evening in Paris, the reform opponents’ march affected just the southern neighbourhoods.
On Concorde Square, opposite the National Assembly, where there were violent clashes between several thousand opponents of the reform and the police for two consecutive days until late at night, protesters lit fires, destroyed scaffolding, and smashed paving stones. Most inscriptions on the railings around the two fountains, which are currently undergoing restoration, recall the turbulent events. Some relate directly to pension reform.
There are numerous police officers, gendarmes in full battle gear, and scores of their vans present. On the eve of the event, the authorities prohibited any acts on the square and the Champs Elysees. Yet, some desperate men attempted to enter, only to be evicted.