PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron chose on Thursday to shun parliament and impose his unpopular pension reforms via a special constitutional power, the so-called “Article 49.3.”
The procedure has been regularly used in the past by different governments. But this time it's drawing a lot of attention and prompting much criticism because of the massive public opposition to the increase in retirement ages.
Here's a look at how and why the special power is used.
WHAT’S ARTICLE 49.3?
Article 49, paragraph 3 of the French Constitution provides that the government can pass a bill without a vote at the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, after a deliberation at a Cabinet meeting.
In response, lawmakers can file a no-confidence motion within 24 hours. If the motion gets approval from more than half the seats, the text is rejected and the government must resign.
If not, the bill is considered adopted and passes into law. Since the Constitution was established in 1958, only one no-confidence motion was successful, in 1962.
HAS THE MEASURE BEEN USED IN THE PAST?
The special power has previously been used ten times by current Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to pass budget bills. President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance lost its majority in legislative elections last year, forcing him into political maneuvering.
Many governments used it, mostly since the mid-1970s, for various reasons, including accelerating the adoption of a bill and imposing a measure that did not have the backing of a parliamentary majority.
Under Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, Article 49.3 was used amid a power struggle within the then-governing Socialist Party, where a group of dissidents contested two successive bills.
France’s strong presidential powers are a legacy from Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s desire to have a stable political system throughout the Fifth Republic he established in 1958, after the post-World War II period experienced successive short-lived, inefficient governments.
It’s the prime minister, appointed by the president, who is accountable to the parliament.
Article 49.3 allows the government’s views to take precedence over the legislative power. Yet critics denounce it as a brutal procedure, detrimental to the democratic debate. Recent opinion polls have also shown that a majority of the French are opposed to the procedure.