French government likely to survive confidence vote

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in the French lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, 10 May 2016.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in the French lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, 10 May 2016. Reuters/Charles Platiau

France’s government will face a no confidence vote in parliament, Thursday, after using a constitutional clause to force through a controversial labour reform. The move angered opponents to the bill across the political spectrum, who are not expected to stand together to bring down the government.


Clause 49.3 of the French Constitution allows the executive to bypass parliamentary approval for a bill if the government can survive a vote of confidence.

After Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced the use of the controversial clause – a move denounced from across the spectrum as evidence the government has little authority over dissenting Socialist MPs – the main opposition party Les Républicains indeed filed a motion for such a vote.

Opposition MP Eric Ciotti said he hoped resistance to the labour bill means a majority will vote against the government itself.

“I hope that those in the majority who are against the bill see their disapproval to its logical outcome,” said Les Républicains MP Eric Ciotti. “We have to give the voice back to the people, in order to re-establish a clear majority and a government based on that majority.”

However, the government has played down fears that the motion will pass.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri has defended the reform she has overseen and minimised the extent of the opposition to it.

“It seems inconceivable that Socialist MPs could vote with the right and roll out the red carpet for them,” said Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, who has spearheaded the proposed reform of the labour code.

“We’ve made many compromises in this bill, which is not the same as conceding defeat,” she said. “Most Socialists MPs want to pass this bill. Only ten percent wanted it written differently. ”

Dissenting Socialists said Wednesday they have no intention of siding with Les Républicains to bring down the government.

“It would be inappropriate and confusing to lend our voice to the motion of right-wing parties, whose platform is proposing even worse reforms than those of the current bill,” said Socialist MP Christian Paul.

But they also sought to rally the 58 voices needed to file a no confidence motion of their own.

“Because of the antidemocratic nature of the use of the constitutional clause, and because of the attack on the protection that French employees have under the current labour code, we wish is to submit a motion of no confidence from left-wing parties and the Green party,” Paul said

With Socialist MPs saying they will not vote with Les Républicains and their allies, there is little chance the government will fall.

But this is the first time dissident Socialists have gone so far as to seek a motion of their own, underlining tensions in the ruling party.

“Many leftist MPs anticipate that in about one year, it is extremely likely that [Socialist President] Francois Hollande will be defeated in the presidential election, and many actors are going to position themselves in the perspective of the post-Hollande period,” says Bruno Cautrès of the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

“The party is extremely divided by its experience in government. It also shows that the breakings in the party are very significant, not only on the economy, but really ideological breakings.”

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