Pensions: motion of censure, opinion of the Elders, pressure from the street... What are the consequences for the reform?

Pensions: motion of censure, opinion of the Elders, pressure from the street… What are the consequences for the reform?

Will the government fall? Monday, March 20, at the National Assembly, motions of censure will be debated in the hemicycle. While waiting for this decisive day, ministers are stepping up to defend the unpopular pension reform and the use of 49.3. Motions of censure, invalidation of the Constitutional Council or even shared initiative referendum (RIP): different procedures could still prevent the reform from succeeding.

Motions of censure

Two motions of censure were tabled, by the Liot group and by elected officials from the National Rally (RN). They will be debated and put to the vote this Monday from 4 p.m. The motion of censure is a means of control of the government by the National Assembly. To be adopted, it must obtain an absolute majority (287 votes). It can be “spontaneous” (article 49.2 of the constitution) or “provoked” by the decision of the Prime Minister to engage the responsibility of the government on a text (article 49.3).

In the latter case, the disputed bill is deemed adopted without a vote, unless a motion of censure is passed. The adoption of the motion has two consequences: the text is not adopted and the government resigns (article 50). The President of the Republic must then compose a new one. To resolve the political crisis, he also has the ability to dissolve the National Assembly, which leads to legislative elections (Article 12).

More than 100 motions of censure have been tabled since 1958. Only one, however, was adopted: it was in 1962 against the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage, which had brought down the Pompidou government. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne thwarted twelve motions of censure in two months, at the end of 2022, to pass the 2023 budgets of the State and Social Security without a vote.

The motion of the Liot group, co-signed by elected officials from Nupes, is more likely to be voted on by right-wing deputies unfavorable to pension reform than that of the RN. But the absolute majority bar to bring down the government seems difficult to achieve. “Of course, a motion of censure can always be adopted. But for that it would have to bring together a coalition of cons, anti, to obtain a very heterogeneous majority without a common political line”, affirmed this Sunday March 19 the minister work Olivier Dussopt, in an interview at the JDD. “I don’t think there will be a majority to bring down the government,” the economy minister also said. Bruno Le Maire, at the Parisian, SATURDAY.

Appeals to the Constitutional Council

The leader of the LFI deputies Mathilde Panot has already promised that the left would seize the Constitutional Council. “There will be several appeals to the Constitutional Council” also warned MP Liot Charles de Courson on Tuesday March 14, on BFMTV. In the Assembly, the Nupes has indicated for several weeks that it intends to continue the battle against the pension reform on the legal level, if it is adopted. In the Senate, the left also intends to file an appeal.

In a note written several weeks ago, the Council of State alerted the government to the risk of unconstitutionality of certain measures of its reform project, as had been revealed Point et The world on February 21. Joined by L’Express, Dominique Rousseau, professor of public law at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, believes that the bill presents risks of unconstitutionality.

The executive has chosen as its legislative vehicle a social security amending financing bill (PLFSSR). It has chosen to use article 47-1 of the Constitution, which concerns the procedure for examining social security financing bills. This article obliges Parliament to make a decision within 50 days.

From a legal point of view, the Constitutional Council could consider that there has been a “misuse of procedure”, believes Dominique Rousseau. The Elders could play their “role of pointer” by indicating to the government that the legislative vehicle “is not the right one”. An opinion that Didier Maus does not share. “The legislative framework exists, even if it can be disputed”, estimates with L’Express the president emeritus of the French association of constitutional law.

Dominique Rousseau recalls that the Constitutional Council speaks of the principle of “clarity and sincerity” of parliamentary debates. However, according to him, there has been “a manifest violation” of this principle. The professor of public law cites in particular the use of article 38 of the internal regulations of the Senate, which makes it possible to speed up the debates. On the other hand, for Didier Maus, “the notion of insincerity of the debate is not admissible”. “The National Assembly deliberated as much as it could”, even if it did not manage to vote the entire text. “Nothing prevented the deputies from going faster in the examination of the text and nothing prevented them from sitting on weekends, as the senators did”, he believes.

Moreover, the reform, inserted in a PLFSSR, is a legislative horseman since finances are not the only aspect addressed in the text. Certain provisions, such as the “senior index”, could thus be censored by the Sages, suggests Dominique Rousseau. “There are undoubtedly some articles that have nothing to do in a PLFSSR”, abounds Didier Maus.

The Elders of rue Montpensier could also decide on the substance of the reform, adds the senior official. Mainly on the question of a possible breach of equality between men and women. “We cannot accentuate an inequality and we cannot discriminate against a category of person, he recalls. There will be a problem of constitutionality if it is shown that the reform is more detrimental to women than to men. “

The shared initiative referendum

The shared initiative referendum (RIP) provides for the possibility of organizing a popular consultation on a bill “on the initiative of a fifth of the members of Parliament”, i.e. at least 185 of the 925 parliamentarians (577 deputies, 348 senators). It must also be “supported by one tenth of the voters”, or 4.87 million people, whose signatures must be collected within nine months. A very important figure, but achievable.

Several Socialist leaders have mentioned this solution, such as the deputy Valérie Rabault and the former Socialist Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, in a interview published in the TribuneWednesday, March 15. Communist deputy Stéphane Peu announced on Wednesday that at least 185 parliamentarians would be ready to table a bill for a RIP in order to block the pension reform.

The Elders must decide on the compliance of the request, once it has been made, within a period of one month, specify the organic law implementing article 11 of the Constitution. The window of opportunity is narrow because the bill “cannot be intended to repeal a legislative provision enacted less than a year ago”. It is therefore necessary that the initiative of the RIP be taken before the promulgation of the law by the executive.

Street mobilization

In 2006, Dominique de Villepin used 49.3 to pass a text that was also very controversial: the first job contract (CPE). Article 49.3 resulted in a motion of no confidence from the left which was defeated. But the mobilization of the street had nevertheless led to the repeal of the CPE. Will the 2023 pension reform meet the same fate? Answer in the next few weeks.

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