What Is Article 49.3 of the French Constitution?
Article 49.3 of the French Constitution enables a government to push a bill through the National Assembly, France’s lower house of Parliament, without a vote.
The move is perfectly legal, and it has been enshrined in the Constitution since its inception in 1958. But over the past decade, it has increasingly been seen as an undemocratic tool, used by the government to strong-arm lawmakers.
If the government activates Article 49.3, the bill is pushed through without a vote. But there is a cost: Opposition lawmakers then have 24 hours to file a no-confidence motion against the government. At least one-tenth of lawmakers in the lower house have to support the motion for it to go to the floor. Lawmakers vote on that motion in the days that follow.
A successful no-confidence motion topples the government — meaning the prime minister and the cabinet, but not the president — and the bill is rejected. If the no-confidence motion fails, the bill stands.
It is exceedingly rare for no-confidence motions to succeed in France.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government used Article 49.3 multiple times in the fall to pass budget bills. But labor union leaders and other opponents have warned that using it on the pension bill — a far more controversial and consequential piece of legislation — would further inflame tensions and anger protesters who have marched and gone on strike around France over the past two months.
The article has been used 88 times since 1958. Michel Rocard, a Socialist prime minister under President François Mitterrand, used it 28 times, the most to date.
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