France Embraces “Governing” by Decree
For the fourth time in this legislature, the French government annulled the parliamentary vote and used a decree to push through labor-related reform.
It is the fourth time that the French Executive shows its weakness and lack of desire to govern as it is supposed to do. Instead, the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls has rammed through legislation that did not have the support he wanted in Parliament as the rebellion of dozens of left-wing deputies.
In the latest case, the Prime Minister’s action had greater significance because it served to definitively approve reforms to labor laws which thousands of French people had already rejected on the streets of Paris and other cities around the country. The intention to approve the reforms also caused the highest level of political tension in the French left.
Valls announced Tuesday his use of Article 49.3 of the Constitution, to enable the suspension of the parliamentary process and the approval of a law by decree, after a tense meeting with his divided parliamentary group. “Enough games. I assume my responsibilities in the interests of the country “, he said.
He was referring to the failed attempt to agree on amendments and to add the socialist vote to approve the reforms he wanted to get through. The application of Vall’s decree occurs the same day that the second reading of the bill was to begin in the National Assembly.
In the first reading, in May, Valls also used a decree to push the project and send it to the Senate.
For the head of government, parliamentary failure of the bill is attributable to “an alliance of conservatives and hardliners” -the right and his critics, although the bill includes “a text of progress” needed in France. “The country must move forward,” Valls said.
With this decree, Hollande and Valls intend to shelve their most controversial plan since last March, which has become a symbol of the struggle between trade unions and the radical left against the economic policy of the socialist government.
Only one of the big unions, the CFDT, supported the reform and accepted the text after the Executive agreed to change key articles of the bill, such as the reduction of severance pay.
According to Article 49.3 of the Constitution, the law will be approved if the Assembly does not present, within 24 hours, a potential censure motion to be voted on in the following two days.
In May, Republicans, the main opposition party, filed the motion, but it failed the required absolute majority of the House.
The rebel MPs and radical left also tried to present that same motion. They lacked two signatures of the 58 required to get it. Now they say they have enough support to cope with “the infernal machine” of Article 49.3.
Republicans, who hold 196 seats, have said they will not present a motion of opposition. In doing so, they will leave in evidence the internal division on the left and, incidentally, the option to support any motion of opposition coming from the left.
With this alliance against nature, the motion would get more than the 289 votes required. As a result, the law would not be passed and the government would fall. That is a risk considered as “disproportionate” by some rebel in the Left when there is less than a year in the calendar before the next presidential election.
The step taken by Valls has coincided with a new day of mobilization against the reforms he supports, the largest social mobilization registered in France in recent decades.
The largest demonstration was registered in the center of Paris with up to 45,000 attendees, according to the police. Participants marched on the streets at the same time that Valls announced his decision.
The CGT, the largest union in the country, was said to be preparing new protests against the “authoritarian drift” and “a powerful offensive to prevent the application of the law” that is rejected by nearly 70% of the French people, according to polls.
Along with labor reform, the other prominent reform during the mandate of Francois Hollande has been the liberalization of the economy.
The law was passed after two reviews in Parliament but also by decree and not via voting. In both cases, Valls overcame the corresponding motions of censure of Republicans.
The constitutional option to approve a law by decree without debate or vote has been used by the French Government on 84 occasions since the start of the V Republic in 1958. The left has used it 52 times and the right, at 32. .
Valls alone has used decrees four times: twice to approve the controversial law to liberalize the economy and two with the labor reform.
The biggest criticism against the use of decrees to avoid debate and a vote in Parliament was made in 2006 by President Hollande. Back then he said: “Article 49.3 is a brutality. It is a denial of democracy. “