French government avoids no-confidence move by rebels

Spectre of French government falling recedes after left-wing rebels fail to muster sufficient numbers

Protesters clash with police in Nantes on Tuesday during a demonstration against the use of the French constitution’s article 49,3 allowing the government to bypass parliament and force through labour reforms. Photograph: AFP Photo/Jean-Sebastien Evrard

Protesters clash with police in Nantes on Tuesday during a demonstration against the use of the French constitution’s article 49,3 allowing the government to bypass parliament and force through labour reforms. Photograph: AFP Photo/Jean-Sebastien Evrard

 

The possibility of the French government falling receded on Wednesday when left-wing frondeurs or rebels fell two short of the 58 signatures required for a motion of censure. They refused to support a vote of no confidence drafted by the right.

Prime minister Manuel Valls’s decision on Tuesday to push through a reform of the labour code by decree could have brought down his 13-month-old government, were 289 of 577 members of the National Assembly to vote for a motion of censure on Thursday.

The vote will take place, but is unlikely to succeed. The El Khomri law, named after the labour minister Myriam El-Khomri, will then be passed.

Members of two right-wing parties filed a motion immediately after Mr Valls announced he would pass the reform by decree, as allowed by article 49.3 of the constitution.

Mr Valls used the same procedure three times last year, to pass the Macron law “for growth and activity”.

Dissenting socialists, greens and communists were faced with the choice of putting forward their own motion against the law, which they consider to be too economically liberal, or voting for the right’s motion.

The rebel socialist Christian Paul said efforts to thwart the law’s passage were justified by the “democratic violence” of Mr Valls’s use of article 49.3, and “the violence that a labour law which will weaken social protection represents for French employees”.

But Mr Paul said it would be “inopportune” and “a source of confusion” for the rebels to vote with the right against a nominally socialist government.

Inconceivable

Denys Robiliard

Ms El Khomri said it was “inconceivable” that socialist deputies “could roll out the red carpet for the right”. Giving one’s vote to the right “is not just being a rebel; it’s being a right-wing deputy”, she said.

Didier Guillaume, the head of the socialist group in the senate, implied the rebels would have been expelled from the party had they voted with the right.  “There’s no such thing as a left- or right-wing motion of censure,” Mr Guillaume said. “If you want the government to fall, it means you’re no longer in the same political family.”

The rebel deputy and former education minister Benoit Hamon said that although one might disagree with Mr Valls, “you have to prefer him to [people] who want to fire 300,000 or 600,000 civil servants every five years – it depends which right-wing [presidential] candidates you listen to –  and abolish the wealth tax and raise retirement age to 65.”

Jean-Claude Mailly, the leader of the Force ouvrière trade union, told the communist newspaper L’Humanité that passing the labour law by decree “will put oil on the fire”.

Trade unions, who will be substantially weakened by the new law, have called protest strikes for May 17th and May 19th.