Is recourse to 49.3 an admission of parliamentary weakness?

Is recourse to 49.3 an admission of parliamentary weakness?

If the governments of the left have more often drawn Article 49, paragraph 3, than the right, they have already used it when they had a majority in parliament. According to Christian Jacob, 49.3 only intervenes “when you do not hold your majority”. It’s wrong.

On July 5, 2016, the Prime Minister at the time, Manuel Valls, activated article 49-3 for the labor law in the National Assembly during an extraordinary cession.  (OLIVIER CORSAN / MAXPPP)

Does the recourse to paragraph 3 of article 49 of the Constitution intervene only when a government does not “hold its majority”, as affirms Christian Jacob? The president of the LR group in the National Assembly thus implies that Emmanuel Macron could forcefully push through the pension reform because of a weak parliamentary majority. This is what he said on Tuesday February 18 on Europe 1: When we use 49.3, (…) it is not a sign of solidity, whether it is us like the other governments and in particular those on the left who have used it more than us (…) It is because we are not sure of his majority ”. This is partly wrong. The True from False Cell explains why.

More recourse to the left than to the right since 1958

The left actually used 49.3 more than the right. Since 1958, left-wing governments have drawn it 54 times, compared to 32 on the right. In total, governments used 88 times to this procedure allowing a text to be passed without a vote.

It is Michel Rocard who holds the record for the use of 49.3 in the Fifth Republic: 28 times in three years to pass the law creating the Superior Audiovisual Council or the reform of the Renault control room. More recently, Manuel Valls used the constitutional weapon six times, notably for two controversial laws at the time: the Macron law in 2015 and the El Khomri law in 2016. AT Right, Raymond Barre used it eight times for the amending finance law in 1976 or the method of electing members of the European Parliament.

A way to speed up a parliamentary debate

And if the current government had recourse to 49.3, would that show an admission of parliamentary weakness? If this was indeed the case with the Macron law or the El Khomri law, it is far from being systematic for all the Prime Ministers of the Fifth Republic.

49.3 can also be used to speed up a parliamentary debate. The most striking example is that of Edouard Balladur (1993-1995) who only once resorted to the responsibility of the government in 1993. He then had an absolute majority in the assembly but drew 49.3 to cut short the “parliamentary obstruction” carried out by the opposition. 3,800 amendments were then tabled against the bill on the privatization of public enterprises. A technique still used by Jean-Pierre Raffarin in 2003, or Alain Juppé in 1996.

In short, the constitutional weapon has been used more by the left than by the right, but it does not intervene only when one “does not hold his majority”.