Week in 3 acts: vote on the motion of censure in the National Assembly, interview with President Macron, 9th inter-union demonstration on March 23.
For less than a year, (beginning of Macron’s second term), it is the eleventh time that the 49-3 article is triggered, this time for the adoption of the pension reform, knowing that it would have been rejected during the vote by the deputies. Between October and December 2022, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used it 10 times to validate the State budget and the Social Security budget. In the wake of this, motions of censure were tabled but none passed. This article dating from 1958, beginning of the Fifth Republic, allows presidents without a majority in the National Assembly, which is the case of President Macron, to have absolute power while engaging the responsibility of his government if a motion of censure is voted for: that is, the resignation of the government, not the resignation of the president in office. Since 1958, only one motion of censure has been approved, that of 1962. The president at the time wanted the presidential election to be by universal suffrage and not [that the president be] elected by a college of electors bringing together deputies and senators, as was the case at the time. The deputies therefore did not vote for the motion of censure. Personal, partisan interests have always taken precedence over the interests of the people, which leaves little chance for motions of censure. The 49-3 is the “trump card” of presidential hyper-power.
Beyond this political and social crisis, there is an institutional crisis. This article 49-3, which comes from the Fifth Republic (1958), is no longer acceptable either to the deputies of the National Assembly who, in fact, no longer serve any purpose, [as they are] gagged by the presidential hyper-power, or to the people who refuse to remain quietly at home while a megalomaniac president, authoritarian and in denial, robs them of their present, their future and their past by disowning and demolishing what is part of our common history: social gains through workers’ struggles and early unions, public service and our right to choose under the conditions under which we want to live, whether at work or in retirement.
Act 1 This Monday, March 20, the National Assembly voted for two motions of censure, one tabled by the LIOT group (Libertés, Indépendants, Outre-mer et Territoires), composed of twenty deputies from different political currents, including ex-macronists, who can be defined in the political spectrum as “center-right-center-left”, and the second by the RN (Rassemblement National, extreme right), composed of 87 deputies, with Marine Le Pen as the group’s President.
The NUPES (Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale, composed of La France Insoumise, the Socialist Party, the French Communist Party and Europe Écologie Les Verts (Europe Ecology the Greens)) did not table a motion of censure, knowing that the other groups in the National Assembly would have refused to vote for it. It chose to co-sign the motion initiated by the LIOT group, thus opening the possibility for various political groups to vote for it. In all, 96 deputies, including 16 from LIOT, signed this cross-party motion.
Only the LR (Les Républicains, the historic right-wing party), could tip the balance, knowing that the Renaissance Group (Macronist deputies), Horizons (the political party of former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe) and Démocrates (Modem and Independent, a right-wing current), all of whom support President Macron, would not vote for the motion. The LR, in a state of collapse since the first round of the presidential elections of 2022 with 4.79% of the vote (not even enough to reimburse their campaign expenses), is trying to survive. In the 2017 and 2022 presidential elections, their votes were siphoned off by Macron. Today in the National Assembly, they are only 61 deputies compared to 314 in 2007, 95 in 2017 (confirmed fall during the first term of Macron).
Within the party, some elected officials have clearly understood that to survive macronism, they must be perceived in “opposition.” As for the old guard of the LR, in the presidency of the group in the Assembly, the instruction given was not to vote. All the promises and dealings of the Macron camp did not prevent 19 LR deputies from voting for this motion, not only for their disagreement with this pension reform, but largely for their own political survival. Their electoral future depends on it, as most of their voters do not want this reform. A party on the verge of implosion and disappearance.
The vote of 287 deputies was needed, a number representing half of the elected members of the National Assembly, for the motion of censure to be validated. The one co-signed by the LIOT and the NUPES obtained 278 votes including the 19 votes of the LR and the 88 votes of the RN. The second motion of censure, that of the RN, obtained 94 votes. Neither of the two passed, the first lacked 9 votes. The pension reform is considered adopted by the National Assembly, despite the fact that there was no vote of the deputies on the text of this reform. The Prime Minister has presented the reform to the Constitutional Council, which has eight days to rule on its legitimacy as an emergency measure, or one month if it is a normal procedure. In addition, the NUPES and the RN have also filed two appeals, and the referral to the Constitutional Council suspends the promulgation of the law. As for the possible RIP (Référendum d’Initiative Partagée), deputies and senators, mostly from the left, have filed the request with the Constitutional Council, which must study its admissibility within a month. The whole procedure would take at least nine months.
As soon as the rejection of the motion of censure was announced, demonstrations and spontaneous gatherings took place in several cities throughout France, with their share of police charges, tear gas, provisional detentions and police custody. Since 2020, demonstrations must be “declared”, a subtle language to avoid saying “authorized or controlled”; they can be refused with a possible imprisonment of six months and a fine of 7,500 euros if we contravene the law. France has forgotten that demonstrating is a fundamental right, an international right. During the first three days of spontaneous demonstrations, 425 people were placed in pre-trial detention (report by the Paris prosecutor’s office) and only 52 people were prosecuted. According to Gérard Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, “it should be known that being in an undeclared demonstration is a crime and deserves an arrest”, LIE: the Court of Cassation has recalled that participation in an undeclared rally cannot be grounds for arrest.
France, since the Yellow Vests, has not ceased to be pointed out regarding the violence of its police. This weekend was unfortunately the demonstration of it. A president of unbridled authoritarianism has a police force that looks like him.
The mobilization against this reform with the extension of the retirement age does not weaken, it takes root. The triggering of the 49-3 has hardened the movement. In defiance of the blockades, the walkouts (short strikes, the employee leaves his workstation), the strike of the garbage collectors in Paris and other cities, the strike of the energy sector, the blockade of the refineries, the strike of the SNCF (French national railways), the blockades of the train stations, the strike of the education and high school students, etc. and the demonstrations which for two months have been making the movement more visible, the government persists. 74% of French people were in favor of the motion of censure and almost 70% are against the pension reform.
Act 2 Emmanuel Macron plays on the rotting while waiting for the movement to run out of steam. During his unsurprising interview on Wednesday, nothing was said, except his usual saying “it’s not me, it’s the others”. He wants the reform to be implemented by the end of the year. A motion of censure with 9 votes is not a failure. The people have not understood anything, it is Macron [who is] our savior. He saves France from the chaos of the budget deficit (confirming that this reform is not linked to a deficit in the pension system, but was simply born to fill the deficit of the state budget on the backs of workers), presenting himself as a “hero” accepting his unpopularity as Jesus accepted crucifixion to wash away our sins, showing himself to be magnanimous by extending his hand to the unions so that they can come and discuss the new reforms to come, but especially not the pension reform, refusing the legitimacy of the “crowd”, i.e. of the people, of the demonstrators. Using the word violence to try to stigmatize the blockades and the demonstrators.
In his great kindness, he grants us the right to demonstrate to express our disagreement, but in silence. Paternalistic, he sends us back home and especially to work. In short, a president in denial, contemptuous, arrogant, ridiculous, a caricature of himself, without any interest. He tries to buy the protest by explaining that he is going to ask the big companies to redistribute their exceptional profits to their employees instead of buying back their own shares; he forgets to say that the companies have no legal obligation to do so.
Act 3 The inter-union demonstration of yesterday, Wednesday 23, broke records of attendance in various cities of France and particularly in Paris. Far from easing tensions, Macron’s interview produced the opposite. The general feeling is “he takes us for fools”. A strong mobilization of young people, students, and high school students has reinforced the processions. High schools and colleges have been blocked all over France. Young people are worried about their future, but also about their parents, whom they see struggling while working, and [about ] their grandparents who have the same difficulties, but are retired.
Clashes have taken place in some cities, notably in Paris. The outbursts cannot be avoided if the government persists in its blindness. Simon Duteil of the inter-union, co-delegate general of Solidaires: “The little music is ‘you are radicalizing’, no no no, this government is radicalizing, we are massive and determined”, he said. Catherine Perret of the inter-union and confederal secretary of the CGT, denounced the government’s desire “to rot a social movement and scare people by using violence. She denounced the fact that “the police send grenades into the union processions” and added “I dare to speak of police violence”. An upcoming demonstration on Tuesday March 28 has been decided.
With the pension reform, he is not only attacking the social gains but our lives, our existence. The garbage collector, the ambulance driver, the nurse’s aide, the waitress, the cook, the worker, the bricklayer, the teleoperator, the cashier, the baker, the butcher, the saleswoman, the storekeeper, the home helper, etc. have the experience in their body that working until 64 is not possible. Up to 60 years is already too much for some professions. At the age of 50, employees feel pain everywhere, exhausted by the work. Moreover, who recruits “seniors” today? No company. All this doesn’t make sense.
We all know, from the youngest to the oldest, that our professional careers will be interrupted by periods of unemployment. We are at a time when the world of work is changing, jobs are disappearing and being replaced by machines, and that’s good; the old speeches and the old theories have no place anymore. Raising the retirement age means plunging us into more precariousness at the time of retirement and this, until our death. With longer periods of unemployment and RSA (active solidarity income to help those who have no income), the amount of pensions will be impacted, it will decrease. Attacking pensions touches people’s lives: this is perhaps the limit of what is acceptable. The demonstrators are more determined than ever. The anger is still roaring. This pension reform must be withdrawn, abandoned, there is no other option.