Debates bogged down, procedural tricks exhausted by opposition: after a week of discussions in the Assembly on pensions, the executive and the majority are faced with a difficult choice to bring about reform, the "atomic weapon" of 49 -3 being in everyone's mind.
Scenario "A" like stretching
On the fifth day of the debates, still peppered with tensions, the deputies were still in the early evening at the very beginning of ... section 1 of the bill, to the rhythm of twenty or so amendments per hour at better, without having adopted a single one (about 35,000 still to be debated).
Three weeks of exchanges in the hemicycle are already scheduled, until March 6, with a first weekend in session. A "filibuster day" is "1,500,000 euros of public money", evaluated the "walker" Florian Bachelier, accused of "anti-parliamentarism" by the PS. How far to go? A fifteen-day parliamentary break is scheduled from March 9 on the occasion of the municipal elections. It is planned to encroach on this break, however a "republican use".
But many elected officials believe that this will not be enough to lock in the 41,000 menu amendments. Communists and rebels demanded a suspension until the municipal elections to avoid "shoddy work". Eric Woerth (LR) pleaded to review the calendar in order to debate "quietly", "even if it takes two months".
It is not conceivable to extend the calendar too much because the text must pass to the Senate in April-May at first reading, then make a final shuttle in order to be adopted definitively "by the summer" as planned. Work will begin in July on the canopy of the hemicycle of the Palais Bourbon: sessions then impossible.
Scenario "B" like bridle
The President of the Assembly Richard Ferrand (LREM) has already tightened the bolts, in particular by providing a single speaker on the identical amendments of the political groups. It releases the new internal rules of 2019 to speed up discussions, but within the limits set by the Constitutional Council which requires "sincerity of the debate".
Opposite, the oppositions use the whole palette to brake. In addition to maintaining a rowdy atmosphere, the left of the left makes requests for ballots at the desk and not by show of hands, quorum requests (sufficient presence of deputies) ... even requests for votes to obtain additional suspensions of sitting . And the LFI and PCF deputies have rushed into a new breach, starting to under-amend the amendments to the first articles of the bill. Jean-René Cazeneuve (LREM) protests: "When you do the math, it's 20 years of our Parliament morning, noon and evening" that will be busy ...
Faced with this assumed obstruction, the holder of the perch could be even more strict on speaking times. Another tool in the hands of the government: the blocked vote on an article or part of the text, which allows it to retain only certain amendments ... but does not prevent debate on the other amendments. A parliamentary source summarizes: "the padlocks are limited".
Scenario "C" like cut short
There remains the weapon of 49-3, this article of the Constitution allowing the government to engage its responsibility before the National Assembly on a text of law. This is then considered to be adopted, unless a motion of censure is voted by the Assembly - highly unlikely case.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was "not comfortable with the 49-3" - usually used in the event of a majority problem - but "the lines have moved a little bit" given the virtual blockage in the hemicycle , according to a government source. Several ministers have already said they prefer "to go to the end of what is possible in the parliamentary debate", without excluding this instrument - described as "parliamentary LBD" by LFI. On the majority side, we accuse the left of the left of looking for it.
A handful of LREM deputies of the left wing do not "want a 49-3", others cringe because it will be necessary to assume before the French not to have voted. The MoDem allies are hoping for a "recovery" of the oppositions to avoid a "49-3 upside down", constrained by obstruction. But is there a choice in the face of "chaos?" Asks the boss of the LREM group Gilles Le Gendre. According to parliamentary sources, article 49-3 could be brandished early next week.
© 2020 AFP