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French President Emmanuel Macron and democracy

By Peter Bowden - posted Wednesday, 5 April 2023

Both Plato and Aristotle objected to democracy They distrusted democracy because it requires a critical mass of people to be intelligent and active citizens, and their experience of people was that it was not sensible to expect one's community to have a critical mass of intelligent, engaged citizens. I think also that Plato and Aristotle objected to Democracy because it would mean that people would expect the State to support them,

Since January, 2023 many people in France have been on strike over reforms that Macron claims are necessary to shore up the nation's struggling pension system. French protesters recently set fire to Lyon town hall as part of a nationwide uprising against Macron's pension reforms, Macron ordered Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to bypass the National Assembly and push through new legislation that would raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 for most French workers.

France's Senate adopted the reforms earlier in the day in a 193-114 vote. Macron then utilized a barely used codicil, known as Article 49.3, to, essentially declare the vote passed in the National Assembly.


Article 49.3 of the French Constitution enables a government to push a bill through the National Assembly, France's lower house of Parliament, without a vote.

The move is perfectly legal, and it has been enshrined in the Constitution since 1958 - part of several institutional tools that Charles de Gaulle insisted upon in order to rein in the parliamentary instability of France's Fourth Republic and give the executive stronger control.

But over the past decade, Article 49.3 has increasingly been seen as an undemocratic tool, used by the government to strong-arm lawmakers.

France's Fourth Republic governed the French Republic from 1946 to 1958

Retirement age in developed countries is about 65. The OECD average for a normal pension age is currently 64.3 years for men and 63.7 years for women. In Australia according to the government's Retirement Income Review released in November 2020, the average age of retirement is currently between the ages of 62 and 65, with women tending to retire one to three years before men.

So it does look as though the peoples' position in France is self-serving, while Macron's position is to increase the years people will be at work, and therefore the overall wealth of the country. So, democracy is perhaps not a "good thing."


But more interesting is Article 49.3. It provides that the government can pass a bill without a vote at the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, after a deliberation at a Cabinet meeting.

In response, lawmakers can file a no-confidence motion within 24 hours. If the motion gets approval from more than half the seats, the text is rejected, and the government must resign. In response, lawmakers can file a no-confidence motion within 24 hours. There can only be two outcomes: either the law passes through the Assembly, or Government is overthrown.

If not, the bill is considered adopted and passes into law. Since the Constitution was established in 1958, only one no-confidence motion was successful, in 1962.

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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