On Monday evening, the French government passed two different no-confidence votes initially proposed by the opposition on the disputed pension reform wanted by French President Emmanuel Macron, which has been the cause of huge protests across France in recent weeks. The protests also continued in the night between Monday and Tuesday euA new general mobilization has been announced by the opposition and the unions for Thursday. Macron’s government appears decidedly isolated and fears having to face a new social crisis, comparable to that of the “yellow vests” who blocked the country for months from November 2018.
The parliamentary vote on Monday completed, at least on paper, the path of the reform, which should now be promulgated by the president and become definitive. The no-confidence motions had been presented by the oppositions: one by the right-wing Rassemblement National party, a second, more important one, across the board by the other oppositions, after the pension law had been approved without going through the vote of the parliamentarians, with a procedure based on article 49.3 of the French Constitution.
There is still one last necessary step: the examination by the Constitutional Council, a body which must verify, if asked, that a law is not in conflict with the indications of the Constitution. The oppositions have collected sufficient votes for it to be examined, the Council has thirty days to do so, or eight if the government requests the urgent procedure (an option considered probable). French analysts believe the law is unlikely to be declared unconstitutional, but the maneuver will prolong time and put pressure on the president, especially if the protest movement grows: there have already been numerous calls for him not to enact it, even if Macron he has always shown himself determined to complete the reform.
The oppositions have also begun the process of setting up a referendum to repeal the law, when it is promulgated: the road to get there is in any case complex and long, the regulations state that a law cannot be repealed in its first year of life.
However, Monday’s vote also showed an extreme weakness of the government, which survived by only nine votes: the oppositions needed 287 for the no-confidence motion to be approved, they reached 278 in the most important one. About twenty deputies (out of 60) among the Republicans, the main center-right party whose votes are often decisive for the prime minister’s government, also voted in favor ANDlisabeth Borne, who has a relative but not an absolute majority. Now the Republicans – evidently divided on the reform – risk a profound crisis, while Macron’s government needs to regroup. This is why the president first summoned all the ministers and then all the deputies to the Elysée on Tuesday. It is not clear whether there will be any government reshuffle: according to the French press, the prime minister should still be confirmed, despite the many objections from the opposition.
After the failure of the no-confidence motions, there were large demonstrations especially in Paris on Monday evening, with numerous clashes with the police: the demonstrators organized improvised marches in various parts of the city and set fire to the rubbish that accumulates along the roadsides for the garbage collectors’ strike. At the end of the evening there were 171 arrests in Paris, but similar protests, even with moments of tension, took place in Strasbourg, Lyon, Rennes, Nancy, Amiens, Nantes and Dijon.
Burning trash cans in the Opera district where the CRS are deploying while the demonstrators chant “Paris, stand up, rise up” #ReformedesRetraite pic.twitter.com/E6sB0E8bjn
— Pierre Bouvier (@pibzedog) March 20, 2023
The unions have announced a new day of general mobilization for Thursday, but strikes in individual categories are already underway. Teachers are partially blocking early tests for the French baccalaureate (a writing session was introduced as early as March) and strikes have shut down some refineries, causing fuel shortages at many petrol stations, especially in the south-east of the country .
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