Submitted by Mina Sabet on 12 May 2016 - 4:42pm
What is 49-3?
The third section of the 49th article of the French Constitution states that the Prime Minister (currently Manuel Valls) can commit the government’s responsibility to the National Assembly regarding the passing of a bill. By doing so, he can push for a straight adoption of the bill without a vote. He also exposes the government to the possibility of being blocked by a motion of censorship that the Assembly can decide to vote on within the next 24 hours. If the Assembly majority agrees on the censorship motion, all the members of the government have to quit and the President (currently Francois Hollande) has to name new ones.
The 49-3 is often considered as a threat to democracy. It was adopted in 1958, when the 5th version of the French Constitution was created and the 5th Republic created along with it.
The current situation in France
On the 17th of February 2016, a new bill draft was unveiled. It involves important changes in the current working conditions. Most trade unions, student unions and left political parties are opposed to it. To show their disapproval, they organised numerous demonstrations, gathering up to 1.2 million protesters.
The government’s reaction to these actions not only hasn’t been productive, but has also created a really tense atmosphere in the country. Instead of engaging in a proper discussion with the unions to lead to a compromise, Francois Hollande and Manuel Valls have sent an increasing number of security policemen to supervise the demonstrations.
Since February, the confrontation of the police forces with the politically engaged crowd has led to a growing number of altercations. Annoyed by the constant violence, French people are less and less willing to make concessions on the bill draft and call for a complete withdrawal.
Two days ago, the Prime Minister announced that he intends on using the 49-3 to push for the bill draft to be adopted without an Assembly vote.
The wrong decision
Considering the situation, it seems to me that the government is making a huge mistake.
First, there is no real good reason for the adoption of this law to be pushed. As it was explained since the unveiling, the changes that the bill is going to cause are not going to shave any short-term effect on the unemployment issue or the depressed economy. Therefore the urge to pass the bill seems quite exaggerated.
Then, the people who are demonstrating against the bill are mainly people who voted for Francois Hollande in the first place. He is basically going against his electors’ will when, again, no one understands why it would be necessary to do so.
Also, considering that even MPs that are supposed to be on his side are currently against him, the government is likely to get blocked.
Finally - and it’s the saddest point for me – instead of agreeing in a debate, Manuel Valls chose to create an obstructed situation. By sending police forces to stop the demonstrations and giving them instructions to use weapons such as teargas and truncheons, he pushes people from a same country to fight against each other.
All this violence and anger is only caused by the stubbornness of the political leaders. Of course, you could object that the demonstrators are being stubborn as well, but I thought I understood that the point of a democracy is that it represents the people.
By refusing an Assembly vote, the government shows that his agenda is more important than a representative policy.