In an attempt to speed up discussions on pension reform in the Senate, the government resorted, on Friday March 10, to article 44, paragraph 3, of the Constitution to activate the blocked vote. This constitutional weapon forces the Senate to decide by a single vote on the entire bill, retaining only the 70 amendments chosen by the government. The remaining thousand amendments would however be presented to the senators, during the debates which must continue until Sunday evening, but will not be the subject of a vote.

“The government is acting” because it has “noticed a characterized and systematic desire on the left to obstruct”, justified Olivier Dussopt after this announcement. The Minister of Labor denounced the large number of amendments and sub-amendments tabled by the opposition. “Democratic denial”, “stratospheric contempt” of parliamentarians, “49.3 in disguise”… The executive’s announcement provoked the indignation of elected officials on the left. The application of the blocked vote, “it is the Constitution, it is not an illiberal application of our fundamental law”, replied Bruno Retailleau, president of the group Les Républicains au Sénat, adding that “the cause is is you [the left] is your obstruction”.

During a press conference in the early afternoon, the president of the socialist senators, Patrick Kanner, assured that the leftist groups would “continue to sit and will not abandon the French”. “We will defend the last amendments given to us, almost as a form of alms,” he added, followed by the president of the communist group, Eliane Assassi, who assured that they would go “to the end of what can be done so that this text is not put to the vote”.

Seventh mobilization against the pension reform on Saturday

Emmanuel Macron also assured the unions, in a letter dated Thursday, that the government remained “listening” but that pension reform was essential. He assured, in a letter, not to “underestimate” the “discontent” and the “anxieties” of the French. Asked about the subject on the sidelines of his meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday, the French president hinted that he was not ruling out anything, including the use of adoption without a vote by the use of 49.3. “It happens that Parliament will follow the terms of our Constitution so that a legislative text can go to its end (…) no more no less”, he assured, refusing to “do here [the] political fiction”.

Debates in the Senate were scheduled to last until Sunday evening and, although the blocked vote aims to speed up the discussions, they could continue until the end of the deadline. At their end, the text will take the path of a joint joint committee (CMP) whose objective is to find an agreement between the two assemblies. This CMP should be held around Wednesday 15 or Thursday 16 March.

This government decision comes the day before a seventh mobilization against the pension reform, scheduled for Saturday. The sixth, Tuesday 7, had a record crowd with 1.28 million demonstrators in France, according to the Ministry of the Interior (3.5 million, according to the CGT). As the movements continue in some sectors, including transport and refineries, the intersyndicale hopes to take to the streets those who cannot afford to strike. An eighth day of demonstrations is already planned for next week, the day of the CMP.