The French Government looks set to bypass its parliament to force through the 2024 budget.
With the centrist-liberal government coalition besieged from both the Left and Right, it has been forced to turn to emergency measures to get the necessary work done and will have to implement article 49.3 of the French Constitution, which allows it to pass laws without the approval of the assembly.
As French politics become ever more contentious and hard-fought, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the move would have to be taken if the government is to function properly and get its budget across the finish line.
Speaking to French Radio RTL on September 3, Borne said it would “certainly have to resort to 49.3 this [autumn]” because France “needs a budget”.
That was echoed by comments from public accounts minister Gabriel Attal who said that “the Constitution provides for 49.3 and we will use it. We need a budget, we know that”.
The use of 49.3 is controversial and many consider it to be an undemocratic tool designed to override the popular will of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.
Borne laid the blame for budgetary gridlock on the opposition and said using the article was necessary because she believed the Left and Right were being unreasonably adversarial.
“The opposition considers that to vote for a budget is to say that it belongs to a majority” she said, implying that opposing parties were more concerned with disassociating themselves from an unpopular government than with running France efficiently.
Still, turning to the controversial the article could put the government of President Emmanuel Macron under further pressure. Once 49.3 has been activated, the National Assembly has 24 hours to file a no-confidence motion.
Article 49.3 was previously implemented to pass highly controversial French pension reforms, which destabilised the country early in 2023, spurring months of strikes, mass protests and riots. In the end the government only survived the resulting no-confidence motion in June with a margin of 17 votes.
Since the passing the budget will doubtless include multiple uses of 49.3, this could expose the French Government coalition to a corresponding number of no-confidence votes.
Florian Philippot, the leader of the minor nationalist Les Patriotes party, and a former National Rally firebrand, has targeted the opposition on X, formerly Twitter, where he asked if the “doormat” opposition would “let itself be humiliated, or if it would it finally react by overthrowing the government with a #NoConfidenceMotion”.
#Borne vient d’annoncer « le recours à des 49-3 » dans les prochaines semaines, notamment sur le budget !
« L’opposition » se laissera-t-elle une nouvelle humiliée ou réagira-t-elle enfin en renversant ce gouvernement par une #MotionDeCensure ?!
Paillasson jusqu’au bout ?!
— Florian Philippot (@f_philippot) September 3, 2023
Given the rising tensions in French politics, many say it is doubtful that Philippot is on his own regarding the political struggle.
Article 49.3 was created in 1958 by former French president Charles de Gaulle specifically to avoid the governmental gridlock and stalemate that had plagued the previous Fourth Republic, where the then-centrist government’s intentions were regularly blocked by the Left and Right.