No-Confidence Vote in France Fails

French President Francois Hollande took an unusual step on Tuesday of passing a law by decree, with no parliamentary vote.

Article 49.3 of the French constitution allows that, but doing so runs the risk of a no-confidence vote and dissolution of the government should the vote of confidence fail.

I commented on Article 49.3 in Hollande Risks Vote of No Confidence Over Business-Friendly Legislation; National Debate Over Baguettes.

That headline was a bit inaccurate because there really was little risk. Heads of state don’t go out of their way on such measures unless they know full well they will survive.

234 voted to censure Hollande, but 289 votes were necessary. Mainstream media portray this as some sort of victory. I don’t. I call it a wasted opportunity. I will explain why in a bit, but first let’s dive into the reporting.

Survival by Coercion

Reuters reports French Government Survives No-Confidence Vote.

France’s Socialist government survived a parliament no-confidence vote called by opposition conservatives on Thursday after it resorted to a controversial decree to bypass broad opposition to a flagship economic reform bill.

Some 234 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion, according to the official vote tally – well short of the 289 votes needed to secure an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament.

The challenge was made after Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday resorted to a little-used mechanism to push through a package of economically liberal reforms opposed by the left – a tactic widely denounced as anti-democratic.

However the outcome of the no-confidence vote came as little surprise after Socialist leaders said they would eject from the party any lawmaker who joined the censure motion. A Reuters reporter in parliament said no Socialist did so.

Vote With the Party or Be Ejected

There you have it. Coercion at its finest. Vote for censure and you will be ejected from the party.

That you have to issue such statements is bad enough. And given that many from other parties do not want a collapse of the government at this time, the vote total should be considered an embarrassment, not a victory.

Wasted Opportunity by Hollande

And what does Hollande have to show for this coercion? The reforms include increasing the number of Sundays that shops can stay open from five to twelve and deregulation of notary and legal professions.

This was my comment two days ago “It is absurd to believe allowing shops to stay open an extra 7 Sundays will do anything meaningful for the economy. If you are going to risk a vote of no-confidence, why not make it meaningful?

Rules of the Game

The rules of the game are such that you can only use Article 49.3 once per parliamentary session. I had to look that up.

Wikipedia reports the French Parliament meets for one nine-month session each year: under special circumstances the President can call an additional session.

So, for the sake of reform that is supposed to impress Germany, Hollande put it all on the line by letting shops open up an extra 7 days on Sunday and other miscellaneous and essentially meaningless items.

Socialist Revolt in Words Not Actions

Socialists were horrified about the prospect of having to work any extra Sundays a year. Martine Aubry, the daughter of former EU commission president Jacques Delors and an influential Socialist party figure, attacked the plan to increase the number of Sundays shops can open from five a year to 12, calling it “social regression”.

In the end, coercion “won”. Not a single socialist stood their ground fearing expulsion from the party.

Final Analysis

What was really achieved? Nothing but Embarrassment. Pathetic.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock