What does Monday's no-confidence vote mean for Macron and for France?

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What does Monday's no-confidence vote mean for Macron and for France?
Prime minister Elisabeth Borne faces a no-confidence vote in parliament on Monday. Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP

The French government on Monday faces a vote of no confidence - so what does this mean and is it as dramatic as it sounds?


On Monday French prime minister Elisabeth Borne faces at least one vote of no confidence, following the decision of the French government to push through highly controversial pension reforms without allowing MPs a vote - using a constitutional process known as Article 49.3.

Here's what will happen on Monday and what it all means.

Is a no-confidence vote unusual?

Not really, it's the standard reaction to a government using Article 49.3. The constitutional article allows a government to push a bill through parliament and into law without allowing MPs a vote - there are, however some conditions.


The government can only use Article 49.3 once per parliamentary sessions on non-financial bills. It can be used an unlimited number of times on financial bills such as the budget. The other condition is that the bill becomes law, unless a majority of MPs in parliament support a vote of no-confidence in the government (known in French as a motion de censure).

What is Article 49.3 and how often do French politicians use it?

It has therefore become standard that every time a government uses Article 49.3, a vote of no-confidence follows. Elisabeth Borne has used Article 49.3 11 times since becoming Prime Minister in summer 2022, and each time it has been used at least one, often several, votes of no-confidence followed. None of the votes have passed.

Is this one different?

It could be. Previous votes of no-confidence against Borne's government failed to pass because they were largely proposed by either the leftist Nupes alliance or the far-right Rassemblement National - respectively the largest opposition group and the largest opposition single party.

Bitter political enemies, the two generally refused to vote for each others' bills, meaning the government easily defeated the motions.

The bill that everyone is watching on Monday is proposed by the small parliamentary group known as Liot - largely made up of MPs from France's overseas territories and Corsican MPs. As a small political player containing both centre-left and centre-right politicians, it's more likely that both the Leftist Nupes MPs and those from the far-right will back its vote.

However in order for the vote to succeed, it would likely also need the support of the centre-right Les Républicains party, which is much less certain.


What happens if it passes?

The no-confidence vote is against Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, so she would have to resign. Even if the vote passes, it's possible she will decide to resign anyway.

However, this doesn't bring down the whole government, prime ministers frequently get 'resigned' by the president and most French presidents have several different PMs over the course of their term of office.

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There's nothing in the parliamentary process that forces an election after a successful vote of no-confidence, but president Emmanuel Macron has previously said that he will call new parliamentary elections if his prime minister is forced to resign. Calling an election remains his choice, however.

What about Macron?

In France the president and the parliament are elected separately. Macron won re-election in 2022 with a healthy majority (58.5 percent to 41.5 percent) and his term continues until 2027. 

While losing his prime minister would obviously leave him politically weakened and embarrassed, it does not oblige him to step down. 

The fresh elections that he can call are parliamentary elections - where he would be seeking a parliamentary majority for his centrist Ensemble alliance (at present his group is the largest, but does not have an overall majority, frequently leading to deadlock in parliament).

French presidents can continue in office even without a majority in parliament - in this case they are forced to appoint a prime minister from the largest party in parliament, a process known as cohabitation. Presidents Jacques Chirac and François Mitterand both spent at least part of their presidential terms in a cohabitation.

Who would benefit from new elections?

This is of course the big question, and one that's very hard to predict. Most polling suggests a result similar to the previous elections, so fresh elections may not solve the problem of a deadlocked parliament at all.

However, polling suggests that the centre-right Les Républicains party would do badly. At present they can hold the balance of power in parliament - despite only having 61 MPs. 

Losing seats in a new election would reduce their power, which is why many analysts believe they will vote against Monday's no-confidence vote, or at least abstain, allowing the current government to survive.


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