Was the use of article 49.3 the equivalent of “why don’t they eat cake instead?”
A week after French Prime minister Élisabeth Borne evoked the use of article 49.3, the largest protest took place last Thursday, March 24th. More than a million people took to the streets nationwide to protest raising the age of retirement in France from 62 to 64.
On March 16, the pension reforms were enacted without a parliamentary vote. By orders of president Macron, Borne invoked article 49.3 of the constitution in the same session the bill was scheduled to be voted on Inside the National Assembly. The opposition MPs on the left booed the announcement and started to sing the national anthem to prevent Borne from speaking, forcing the session to be briefly suspended before the announcement by Borne was made.
Borne cried, "we cannot gamble on the future of our pensions ... The reform is necessary.". Article 49.3 is an article of the French Constitution which allows the government to pass bills without the vote of the National Assembly.
Marine Le Pen member of the national rally announced she would file a no-confidence motion against the government following the invoking of article 49.3, she described the use of Article 49.3 as "a total failure for the government", and that Borne should resign. The no-confidence motion is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility like in government or management is still deemed fit to hold that position, such as because they are inadequate in some aspect, fail to carry out their obligations or make decisions that other members feel to be detrimental.
In an unprecedented move, all the national eight unions including transport and energy workers, teachers, dockers and public sector workers (such as museum staff) are in agreement and have been organising national days to protest Macron’s pension reform, last Thursday, 23rd of March, over a million took to the streets to demonstrate nationwide according to the Unions. The protests commenced at Place de la Bastille at 2 pm, marching through the city via Place de la République, and arriving at Place de l'Opéra at 7 pm. The streets of Paris were photographed with what appeared to be a deja vu from the Bastille attack in 1789 with fire Engulfing the burnt rubbish scattered in central zones of the capitol. Bordeaux’s town hall was burnt by people on Thursday night following the protests.
On Friday the 24h of March, French president Emmanuel Macron announced the postponement of the much-anticipated 3-day visit by British King Charles II from the 26 to the 29 of March in fear of disruption by reform protests. The general public took that decision as a win and attacks continued over the weekend. On Saturday, protesters clashed with French police when protesting against the construction of water reservoirs for farmers in western France.
More than 25,000 protesters gathered in the rural town of Sainte-Soline in the Deux-Sèvres department on Saturday to call on the government to stop the construction of water reservoirs for farmers to use for irrigation during the summer months, according to protest organizers.
Tomorrow marks the tenth nationwide demonstration in France orchestrated by the eight National Unions in opposition to the pension reform prosed by the Macron government.
Pension reform has been proposed by all of Macron's predecessors. In the 1980s, the age of retirement was altered from 65 to 60, and the first attempt to reform it was in 1995 by former president Jacques Chirac which was met with public refusal and ultimately scrapped. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy succeed to change the retirement age to 62 after months of nationwide public refusal. Macron first introduced the reform in 2019 which was received by protests nationwide and then he Covid19 shelved the reform and halted the protesting.
The retirement age is proposed to increase by two years to 64. The change will be gradual, increasing by three months per year from September until 2030. To receive a full pension, workers must make an additional year of social security contributions, which means 43 years of work rather than 42 years in order. The Guaranteed minimum pension income of not less than 85 per cent of the net minimum wage, or roughly 1,200 euros per month at current levels, for new retirees. And after year one of retirement, the pensions of those receiving a minimum income will be indexed to inflation.
Yellow Vests movement VS pension reform protests:
The “Yellow Vests” protests started in November 2018 over the prices of fuel and increased taxes disparities in France. It continued until the holiday season then resumed in January 2019. the numbers of protesters were greatly larger from the Union's sources in comparison to the information given by the police. Overall, the largest crowd gathered to demand change was on the 17th of November with an estimated 300 thousand people protesting across the country.
The bill for pension reform was announced in January 2023 and it immediately reawakened the titan of the demonstrations. Despite the general refusal, the Macron administration continued with the plan to draft a law out of the reform bill. On the 16th of March, article 49.3 was evoked to pass the bill without a vote by the National Assembly was the fuel that inspired the protesters to set fire to rubbish and government and legislative buildings.
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