French President Emmanuel Macron’s Government is forcing its budget through the French Parliament without a vote from its deputies.
Besieged by opposition on both the Left and the Right, the government is using the French Constitution’s infamous article 49.3, which allows it to pass laws without the National Assembly’s approval.
This places the centrist Liberal government at risk as using article 49.3 allows the opposition to call for a vote of no confidence.
“It’s not a question of democracy”, Thomas Cazenave, minister of poublic accounts, told French newspaper Le Figaro. He said what he called the obstructionist tactics of the opposition were making France unmanageable.
“We have no choice but to provide the country with a budget”.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wasted no time in using the emergency power. There was minimal debate and then cries of consternation when Borne invoked it to pass the first section of the 2024 budget on October 18.
“We reached out for agreement … Today, this much is clear, no opposition group is ready to vote for the [budget]” she said.
“Stop your blah-blah!” shouted one Deputy from the national-populist Rassemblement National (RN) party.
According to the French daily Libération, this is the thirteenth time article 49.3 has been used under Macron. The current record of overriding the National Assembly is held by the 1990s Socialist then-prime minister Michel Rocard, who turned to it 28 times.
Cazenave said that “there will probably be about 10 Article 49.3s” for the budget alone, so it looked like Borne was well on her way to beat the record.
The situation comes amid rising polarisation and instability in French politics.
The government coalition, led by Macron’s Renaissance party (formerly La République en Marche), is outnumbered by the opposition.
It often finds itself caught in the crossfire between the hard-left and the hard-right, unable to compromise in either direction.
A recent example included an immigration-reform bill. In that case Macron’s government is being criticised by the Right for being too lax on illegal migration, while the Left is demanding that it give some official status to unregistered migrants working in France.
The Right is intent on fighting the bill because it is not hard enough on migration, the Left because it is too tough. https://t.co/B02jvciOPS
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) September 7, 2023
For his part Cazenave said he believed the government had already done enough to accommodate the opposition.
“We cannot say … that there was no dialogue. I organised the Bercy dialogues with all the groups represented in parliament”, he said, referring to talks that had been set up between all the parties outside the parliament.
He highlighted that 323 amendments had been adopted, including many from RN and the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI).
That has done little to remove all danger for the government.
Both LFI and RN have indicated that they intend to call for a motion of no confidence.
The government survived its last major vote of no confidence by a slim margin of 278 votes against the government to 295 in favour. That had been caused by a controversial raising of the retirement age, which had triggered months of mass protests and riots across France.