French Government to Push Through 2023 Budget Using Constitutional Powers

French President Emmanuel Macron

The French government has said it plans to push its 2023 budget through the lower house of parliament without a vote, via constitutional powers that are rarely used.

The move was called “authoritarian” by the opposition, and it shows that President Emmanuel Macron’s position at home has gotten worse since the spring elections, when his centrist party lost its absolute majority.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned legislators, “We can’t take the risk of leaving France without a budget at a moment when there are numerous risks.”

After the opposition proposed a multitude of costly amendments aimed at hampering the budget bill, Borne said that the government would invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution, which permits it to approve a draft legislation by decree, thereby bypassing the legislature.

The left-leaning Nupes alliance and the far-right Rassemblement National party quickly demanded a vote of no confidence, which has little chance of succeeding and is mostly symbolic.

“France cannot be governed by whipping out the 49.3. That’s why the Nupes has just decided to lodge a no-confidence motion,” Mathilde Panot, a prominent Nupes politician, told reporters shortly after Borne’s declaration.

First Major Challenge

The issue represents the first major challenge for Macron in parliament since the June elections left France locked in a political stalemate.

Since all opposition parties have engaged in purposeful delay, politicians from Macron’s centrist coalition have argued for days that the government has no choice but to employ extraordinary measures to pass the budget. The prime minister said that the days of debate in parliament about the budget had been helpful and had led to “dialogue” that could be used to make the package stronger.

In recent days, however, cracks have appeared even within Macron’s coalition. Jean-Paul Mattei, a politician from the centrist MoDem party, which is allied with Macron, proposed an amendment to put a flat tax on corporate “super-dividends” handed out by industrial and energy giants which had generated “enormous” profits during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 49.3 clause was last invoked in 2016, when former president Francois Hollande’s Socialist government pushed through disputed labor law reforms that then-Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron had been in favor of.