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France’s government survives vote of no confidence


After a long dispute, the pension reform pushed by French President Macron has been decided. The opposition failed in the National Assembly with two motions of no confidence. Nevertheless, the government was punished.

In France, the government narrowly survived two motions of no confidence over its controversial pension reform. 278 MPs voted for the first application of the small center party Liot. It would have taken at least 287 MPs to express no confidence in the government. So nine votes were missing.

That means there must have been a greater number of dissenters among conservative Republicans than was thought. The government had courted her with concessions worth billions.

The right-wing national Rassemblement National submitted another motion of no confidence. He received only 94 votes. With the failure of both votes, the pension reform is considered accepted. It will then be forwarded to the Constitutional Council. If he confirms it, it comes into effect.

Sabine Rau, ARD Paris, with details on the conflict about the start of retirement in France

Tagesschau 8:00 p.m., 20.3.2023

Prime Minister used procedural trick

Last week, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used a procedural trick to push through President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial plans to raise the retirement age. She referred to Article 49.3 of the Constitution. This provides that a law can be passed without a vote in Parliament if the government subsequently survives motions of no confidence. The opposition immediately announced a vote of no confidence.

However, it is difficult to enforce a motion of no confidence – since 1962 no one has been successful in France. The government can access the special article on budgetary issues – as is now the case with pension reform. In addition, she may only use the funds once per parliamentary year.

Pension reform France: Opposition examines constitutional complaint after failed vote of no confidence

Sabine Rau, ARD Paris, daily news at 8:00 p.m., March 20, 2023

Opposition announces constitutional complaint

Massive criticism came from the opposition. “The government no longer has any legitimacy, the prime minister must resign,” said the leader of the left-wing populists, Mathilde Panot. Left and right-wing nationalists want to call the Constitutional Council tomorrow. They also want to try to bring down the reform with a referendum initiated by parliament. Macron can’t pretend nothing happened, Rassemblement National’s Marine Le Pen said, the bare minimum would be to substitute Borne. Formally, however, the head of government can remain in office.

Borne had previously defended her reform and attacked the opposition. Their countless amendments would have made the debate impossible. Not Article 49.3 introduced by General de Gaulle and not a dictator. “If you want to bring down the government, now you have the opportunity to do so,” Borne concluded her speech angrily.

Borne could lose office

Nevertheless, Borne’s political future seems uncertain. President Macron is likely to dare a symbolic new beginning – probably with a refreshed government force. For days there has been speculation about the future of the prime minister, whose repeated search for a compromise ultimately failed miserably.

But the personality is complicated. Borne is only the second female prime minister in France. Her predecessor Édith Cresson was in office for just eleven months in the 1990s. If Borne went now, she would undercut that. Macron, who likes to portray himself as an advocate of equality, should try to avoid this. It is rumored that Borne will remain at her post at least until the beginning of April.

Observers expect headwind for Macron

But even with new faces in the cabinet, Macron would have to ask himself personally how he wants and can continue. With the pension reform, he has drawn the frustration of hundreds of thousands of French people, which has been vented in spontaneous and sometimes violent protests in recent days.

The unions want to continue to mobilize, and further strikes and protests are planned for Thursday. Observers assume that the President will face even more headwind in the implementation of reform projects.

The pension reform primarily provides for gradually raising the retirement age to 64 by 2030. Currently, the retirement age is 62 years. In fact, retirement begins later on average: those who have not paid in long enough to receive a full pension work longer. At the age of 67 there is then a pension without a deduction, regardless of the payment period – the government wants to keep this, even if the number of payment years required for a full pension is to increase more quickly. She wants to increase the monthly minimum pension to around 1,200 euros. With the reform, the government wants to close an impending gap in the pension fund.

With information from Stefanie Markert, ARD Studio Paris