Go to the vote at the risk of a rejection of the pension reform by the National Assembly, or draw the constitutional weapon of 49.3, seen as a forced passage: the executive is this Thursday facing a difficult choice.
The Senate dominated by the right should adopt without incident a second time in the morning the very disputed reform project, object Wednesday of an agreement in joint committee deputies-senators. Then it will be the turn of the National Assembly to decide in the afternoon, after a last stand of opposition via a prior rejection motion.
If Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne judges that she has a certain majority on the text, thanks to the votes of enough LR deputies, she will ask for the vote. "We are reasonably up and running," slips a government source, who is counting on the ripple effect of the compromise found between the right and the Macronists. A green light from the Assembly would be worth definitive adoption by the Parliament, which would validate its strategy of compromise and would reinforce it to Matignon.
The left, however, is preparing an appeal to the Constitutional Council, which will delay the promulgation of the text. Measures such as the senior index could thus be revoked, but the Sages should not touch the heart of the reform, the decline in the legal age of departure from 62 to 64 years old. The oppositions have other cartridges. They can table a motion of censure, but that would have little chance of succeeding and could appear as a second defeat. The Socialists are also pushing for a shared initiative referendum (RIP) on pensions.
If she fears too many defections from the LRs, or even from the presidential camp, or too low a margin, the head of government can, with Emmanuel Macron, decide to trigger article 49.3 allowing a text to be adopted without a vote. "Until the last moment there will be uncertainty, and we will see what decision needs to be made," according to a government source. In order to authorize this 49.3, an exceptional meeting of the Council of Ministers may be held just before the 3 p.m. session in the Assembly.
Elisabeth Borne has already used 49.3 ten times in the fall on budgets. And it would be the hundredth time that a Prime Minister has thus committed his responsibility to a text of law since the beginnings of the Fifth Republic. But the procedure is not without danger. The head of government would expose herself to motions of censure from the left alliance Nupes and the National Rally (RN), which could be debated during the weekend or early next week. Their rejection would seal the definitive adoption of the reform.
But the votes are then likely to be tight, some LRs being able to add their voices, or even sign a motion. "The Prime Minister will feel the wind of the cannonball," say the majority, where there are also fears that the ability to carry out reforms in the future will be greatly weakened. In addition, a 49.3 risks rekindling the protest in the street. "It would be a democratic vice", warned the number one of the CFDT Laurent Berger, while the Assembly would not have finally voted once for the whole reform.
The left, the far right and some elected LRs ardently desire it: that the reform project be put to the vote in the Assembly and that it be challenged. "Everyone wants a moment of truth" in the majority, but "yes, we can lose," says a Renaissance executive. The previous rejection of a text resulting from an agreement in a joint committee dates back to 2009 with the Hadopi law on audiovisual. The slap would be severe for the entire presidential camp, and especially Elisabeth Borne, who has been struggling for months to find ways through for this campaign promise by Emmanuel Macron.
In theory, the reform project could return by shuttle between Assembly and Senate, with a view to new votes by March 26, the ax date. But this is not the most likely option, and the text could rather be reworked with the social partners, or even abandoned. Would the Matignon tenant submit her resignation? Could the Head of State be tempted to dissolve the Assembly, so that a clear majority emerges? A new phase would open, fraught with uncertainty for power.