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French government survives no-confidence vote

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls invoked rarely-used special powers to force the reform through parliament
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls invoked rarely-used special powers to force the reform through parliament Martin Bureau / AFP

France's Socialist government survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote Thursday called by opposition conservatives and party dissenters after Prime Minister Manuel Valls pushed through a flagship economic reform bill by decree on Tuesday.

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Some 234 lawmakers voted in favour of the motion, according to the official vote tally, short of the 289 votes needed to secure an absolute majority.

The reform bill is now considered to have passed the National Assembly and will now go to France’s upper house of parliament, the Senate, for approval before it becomes law.

The bill includes a patchwork of measures, from allowing more shops to stay open on Sundays and evenings to making it easier for employers to lay off workers.

It is aimed at lifting France from the economic doldrums and reducing sky-high unemployment.

In the face of opposition from both opposition conservatives and elements on the left who found the bill to be too pro-business, Prime Minister Valls on Tuesday invoked rarely-used special powers to bypass the National Assembly.

The move drew an immediate censure motion, which was widely predicted to fail as even the most ardently opposed Socialists did not want to risk their party’s majority in parliament.

France’s Socialist Party is fractured between a pro-business faction – including Valls and his youthful financier-cum-Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who authored the bill – and others who want to protect French industry and the country’s considerable social and health benefits.

“A left that does nothing, achieves nothing,” Macron said Wednesday on French channel BFM TV. “The right, which did nothing and doesn’t propose anything, achieves nothing. So we are moving forward.”

French President François Hollande has cited the measure as an important demonstration of goodwill toward EU authorities, who have allowed France yet again to put off reducing its deficit to below the 3 percent of GDP EU-mandated threshold.

Facing a lagging economy and an unemployment rate hovering above 10 percent, Hollande changed tactics in January 2014 when he announced a plan to lower taxes and spur employment.

He promised to ease payroll taxes by up to €40 billion by 2017 if businesses would hire more workers, although the jobless rate has hardly budged. At the same time, France abandoned its pledge to bring its deficit below the 3 percent threshold in 2015.

Macron, a former investment banker, became economy minister in August. In an interview with The Associated Press last month said he wanted to make France “a haven for entrepreneurs”.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

 

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