SECTION 49.3. The pension reform must be voted on in Parliament this Thursday, March 16, but faced with the uncertainty of obtaining a majority in the National Assembly will the government resort to article 49.3 of the Constitution?
[Mis à jour le 16 mars 2023 à 11h08] Will or will not use 49.3? This is the question that haunts the government this Thursday, March 16, a fateful day for pension reform. While Parliament must vote today on the latest version of the text defined during the joint joint committee, the executive is not certain of obtaining a majority in the National Assembly, some elected representatives of the majority and Republicans still showing undecided in the face of the text. If it is not by vote, the pension reform can still be adopted… by force. A solution for this: Article 49.3 of the Constitution.
If Emmanuel Macron decides to resort to the parliamentary weapon, he is almost sure to see the reform passed, but at what price? First, he puts the responsibility of his government at stake and exposes himself to the forced resignation of his Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. A risk a priori minimized, the motions of censure having little chance of succeeding. Above all, he will have to assume a text devoid of parliamentary legitimacy, criticized by the majority of French people and will act on the definitive break with the citizens. So is the game worth the candle?
Can the government use 49.3 on pension reform?
Nothing prevents the government from choosing 49.3 for the adoption of the pension reform. The article of the Constitution can be used without limit during the examination of a bill of law of finance or financing of social security. And if it has already been drawn ten times last fall, the pension reform being part of an amending social security financing bill, 49.3 is still possible. Even so, 49.3 can be used once per parliamentary session on any text other than a finance bill and this joker has not yet been exhausted by the executive. If in fact, recourse to the parliamentary tool is possible, politically the subject is more delicate.
“Second worst-case scenario” according to political scientist Bruno Cautrès, the use of 49.3 on pension reform would be experienced as a “denial of democracy”, analyzes the specialist at the microphone of France info. And to add that the “political legitimacy [du gouvernement, ndlr] would be considerably attenuated”. Same echo on the side of the left with the socialist deputy Jérôme Guedj who “will denounce the failure and the feverishness of the government”.
If article 49.3 must be drawn for the adoption of the reform it is this Thursday, March 16. As long as the National Assembly – which speaks this afternoon after the vote of the Parliament organized this morning – has not started examining the text, recourse to the parliamentary tool is possible. But before using it, Emmanuel Macron must convene his Council of Ministers. No official information on the holding of such a meeting has been communicated but despite a tight schedule, everything is still possible. Especially since Wednesday evening the Elysée recalled that “all institutional schemes are possible with the desire to continue to move the country forward”. While a Council of Ministers took place on the eve of the vote in Parliament, government spokesman Olivier Véran assured at the end of the meeting that the use of 49.3 was not mentioned, the head of the State “wishing” to favor the vote over the passage in force.
Once article 49.3 is used, the pension reform will be considered adopted, unless motions of censure are tabled. It is then necessary to wait for the vote of these to know if the adoption of text is maintained or if it is rejected and, in fact, the disavowed government forced to resign.
The majority rather for or against the use of 49.3?
On the eve of the vote and still a few hours before the arrival of the pension reform in the National Assembly, the government does not seem to have decided on the question of 49.3. Within the majority two sounds of bells are opposed. On the one hand, those who do not want to take the slightest risk of seeing the reform rejected in the National Assembly judging that the possibility of having enough votes in the LR camp is too fair, as explained to France Televisions a Renaissance MP: “The government is doing case by case to convince undecided MPs, but it’s too late and too risky”.
Others, on the contrary, are for measured risk-taking, such as the MoDem MP Philippe Vigier who defended on France Inter : “The reform must pass […] and I would like us to be able to vote this afternoon. You have to take the risk. When Nicolas Sarkozy made the constitutional reform, he won with one voice. Political life is also about taking risks”. But this position seems more often motivated by the fear of seeing the government disavowed. of the Charles de Courson center signed by elected LR casts doubt on the future of the government.
Update on 49.3
What is article 49-3 of the Constitution?
Paragraph 3 of Article 49 of the Constitution, commonly referred to as 49.3, appears in Title V of the Constitution. This legal device is used to regulate the “relationships between the government and the Parliament”. The Prime Minister is the person who can make use of it after deliberation by the Council of Ministers. It is then possible to suspend the examination of a particularly controversial bill within the National Assembly, and therefore of all the negotiations that accompany it. This would allow the presidential camp to force through a text, therefore without a vote, despite opposition, and to speed up the legislative procedure, in particular by putting an end to any obstruction by parliamentarians.
The use of 49.3, however, has a price and each time the article is used, the government “engages its responsibility”. In other words he takes the risk of having to resign if a motion of censure tabled by the opposition, within 24 hours, is voted. The law provides that in the event of a rejection of this motion of censure, “the bill or proposal is considered adopted.” On the other hand, if it is adopted, “the text is rejected and the Government is overthrown.” However, if no motion of censure is tabled within 24 hours, “the bill or proposal is considered adopted.”
What is a motion of censure?
The motion of censure is a major parliamentary tool. Its objective: to lead, if it is adopted, to the resignation of the Prime Minister as well as of his government. In the context of the use of Article 49.3 of the Constitution, it can be tabled by deputies. They must be at least 58, or one tenth of the National Assembly. To be adopted, it must collect 289 votes “for”, ie the absolute majority of the hemicycle, in this case 2587 votes since two seats are vacant. In the event of a relative majority (a majority of “for” but less than 289), it is not adopted. Today, in the National Assembly, the government of Emmanuel Macron has less than 289 deputies (249). Enough to raise fears of a possible overthrow of the government if all the oppositions sign the same motion of censure.