Will French president-elect Emmanuel Macron's plan to govern 'by decree' work? 

French president-elect Emmanuel Macron
French president-elect Emmanuel Macron Credit: AFP

Emmanuel Macron made it clear during the electoral campaign that he intends to pass through accelerated reforms this summer "par ordonnances" (by decrees), a plan that has drawn howls of disapproval from certain unions.

What is a decree?

Mr Macron wants to drive through reforms, notably one to "simplify" labour laws. But to make the process "faster and more efficient", he wants to bypass the lengthy parliamentary process and rush through the reforms by decree.

The procedure should not be confused with the highly controversial Article 49.3, employed by ex-prime minister Manuel Valls to pass hotly-contested labour reforms last year; this is an even quicker and more powerful way to force laws through and has been nicknamed "the nuclear option". 

In what areas does he intend to reform by decree?

Simplifying labour laws, "decentralising negotiation" on, say, working hours, which would take place at company rather than national level; introducing a "right to make a mistake" with the French administration, meaning a company or individual who makes a mistake in good faith will not be automatically sanctioned, as is often the case; placing a ceiling on the amount of dismissal compensation labour tribunals can hand out, and ending the habit of "gold-plating" European directives when transposed into French law.

Mr Macron, seen here with outgoing president Francois Hollande, wants to enact sweeping reforms in France Credit: Reuters

Can he use decrees without a parliamentary majority?

Not really, no. Parliament must provide a green light for the decree, which it must later ratify within a specific time frame or see it lose much of its firepower.

Mr Macron insists the decree "helps speed up the debate", another of his stated aims, as he also wants to end the default practice of the lower and upper houses of parliament having to examine a bill twice.

Are there drawbacks?

Some say yes. Libération points out that "coming from a candidate who has never been elected to parliament or elsewhere, the mere idea of using decrees could clearly be interpreted as an act of defiance towards MPs. It implies that going via the National Assembly is by nature a brake to reform."

Trade unionist and anti-capitalist protesters clash with police in Paris Credit: Alamy

Who is against it?

Unions whose members took to the streets the day Mr Macron was elected to protest against any future challenges to workers' rights.

The powerful CGT union on Wednesday issued a "solemn call" on the president-elect to "renounce new social steps backwards via decree or 49.3", claiming that Mr Macron had been "elected by default by a large number of voters" and should thus heed their reservations.

Force Ouvrière union chiefs warned that rushing through laws by decree "sweeps away social dialogue and consultation".  Even Francois Bayrou, a key centrist Macron ally, advised "dialogue" rather than decree, saying it sends the signal "things are blocked".

Even the more moderate CFDT warned Mr Macron he could expect "no honeymoon".

Will Macron go ahead with it?  

He has shown no sign of changing his mind on this so far. 

Besides, decrees are nothing new. Nicolas Sarkozy passed 136 of them while in power between 2007 and 2012. François Hollande also had recourse to them on laws on housing and administrative "simplification".

But given the explosive state of the nation and in an attempt to avoid the kind of massive street protests Mr Hollande had to endure, Mr Macron will receive unions next week to discuss his plans.

Analysts concur that success or failure in driving through early laws via decree will be a litmus test of Mr Macron's reformist credentials.

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