Jupiter Falling? Macron Govt in Jeopardy as Opposition Parties File Motions of No Confidence

Young demonstrators are grouped around a large caricature of President Emmanuel Macron dep
Samuel Boivin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Opposition parties in France’s National Assembly, including Marine Le Pen’s populist National Rally (RN) and the centrist Liot group, filed motions of no-confidence in President Emmanuel Macron’s government on Friday after it used a controversial mechanism to pass a contentious increase to the pension age without a vote on Thursday.

The fate of the government of Emmanuel Macron, who once proclaimed that he would govern France like Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods, was thrown into question on Friday as a growing coalition from across the political spectrum lined up to table measures of censure (no confidence) in his government in response to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoking article 49.3 of the constitution to ram through legislation to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a vote after it appeared that it would not gain a majority in the National Assembly.

If a measure of censure is adopted, President Macron’s minority government in the National Assembly would collapse, and Prime Minster Elisabeth Borne would be forced to resign, throwing into question Mr Macron’s political future just one year into his second term in office, Le Parisien reports.

Currently, Marine Le Pen’s populist right-wing National Rally (RN) and the Liot group of centrist MPs in the French parliament have tabled no-confidence measures.

In a statement, RN said: “While the French are massively demonstrating their opposition to this reform, the national representation has not, at any time, been able to vote on this text, which is, despite the legality of the process, a serious attack on democratic principles.”

The motion from Liot, a small group of just 20 members in the NA comprised of centre-left, centre-right, and Corsican nationalist parties was co-signed by the NUPES coalition led by the far-left socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is often compared to Bernie Sanders in America or former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain.

“The vote on this motion will allow us to get out on top of a deep political crisis,” said the head of the Liot group Bertrand Pancher.

Mélenchon, who is no longer a sitting member of the assembly, said that “we have decided to give censorship the greatest possible chances, to withdraw our own motion in favour of LIOT’s motion, a decision taken last night by the group.”

For a no-confidence motion to succeed in the National Assembly, it must receive 287 votes in favour. Combined, the Liot group, National Rally, and the NUPES coalition have a total of 259 members in the parliamentary body.

Crucially, the establishment-right Les Republicains (LR), which was key in preventing the minority Macron government from gaining a majority for his pension reform plans, have yet to formally back either motion.

The president of the LR, Éric Ciotti, said that his group would not support any motion of censure, however, claiming that “the crisis situation in the country would not tolerate … a fatal blow to our democracy”.

Yet it is unclear if all members of the 61-member party will vote in lockstep, with the party’s third highest-ranking member, secretary-general Aurélien Pradié, saying that all MPs are “totally free to participate in another motion of censure”

Should the disparate political factions come together to pass one of the motions, not only would the pension reforms be rejected, but the government would fall and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne would have to tender her resignation to President Macron, who in turn would likely be forced to dissolve the parliament.

The pension reforms, which would raise the retirement age to 64 — an age that would still be lower than other European nations such as Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom — have sparked nationwide trade union-organised protests, which have seen some of the largest demonstrations in decades.

Spontaneous protests broke out on Thursday evening across the country on Thursday following the government’s invocation of the loophole. Rioters clashed with police, smashed storefronts, and set fires in cities such as Paris, Nantes, and Marseilles, resulting in some 310 arrests.

The ability of rioters to start fires was greatly enhanced by a garbage workers’ strike, which has seen some 10,000 tonnes of waste left sitting out on the streets of Paris.

Protests continued throughout the day on Friday, with activists attempting to block a major ring road around the French capital and others staging blockades, including at the Port of Calais, which is responsible for traffic across the English Channel.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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