French PM to unveil first laws for Macron's France
Paris (AFP) –
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will unveil Tuesday the new government's first steps towards the "transformation" of the country promised by President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron and his new centrist party Republic on the Move (REM) swept to power in elections in May and June on promises to rejuvenate French politics, boost entrepreneurship and overhaul the social security system.
Philippe will set out the measures the government intends to put to parliament over the next 12 months, including controversial labour market reforms, tax cuts for businesses and a law to improve ethical standards in public life.
Macron, France's youngest president at just 39, gave a state of the union address to both houses of parliament on Monday, saying that he was not aiming for mere reforms but a "transformation" of the political system and the economy.
As well as reducing France's budget deficit to under 3.0 percent of GDP, he has promised an overhaul of unemployment benefits and pension systems and to reduce the number of civil servants by 120,000 over his five-year term.
The government will face little difficulty in passing legislation in the lower house of parliament where REM candidates won more than 300 out of 577 seats in last month's election, only 14 months after the creation of the party.
The upper-house Senate, where rightwing Republicans hold a majority, will be trickier.
Macron faced mixed reviews for his inaugural address to lawmakers in the Palace of Versailles, a novelty which he intends to turn into an annual event to present his vision for the country.
The French press noted his determination to restore the prestige of the office of the all-powerful presidency and said he appeared keen to stay above the political fray.
"Macron is leaving the difficult work to Philippe," wrote commentator Paul-Henri du Limbert in the right-leaning Le Figaro newspaper.
Many critics say Macron's unpopular Socialist predecessor as leader, his former mentor Francois Hollande, failed to project an image of presidential authority.
But Macron's style -- he has used the former royal palace in Versailles twice since taking office and has given only one media interview -- has also seen him criticised by some for being aloof, monarchical or even "pharaonic".
On Tuesday, he was visiting a military base in the northwest of the country where he is expected to be taken on a trip aboard the nuclear submarine "The Terrible."
Macron also promised in his speech on Monday to slash by a third the number of MPs in the lower and upper houses, telling lawmakers he would call a referendum if they do not agree to the measure.
The new head of state has broadly positive approval ratings with slightly more than half of respondents in recent polls expressing a positive view of him -- around the same level as Hollande enjoyed at the start of his term.
© 2017 AFP