Macron plans to slash France’s MPs by a third

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron yes­ter­day promised a “pro­found trans­for­ma­tion” of French pol­i­tics, propos­ing to slash by a third the num­ber of MPs, and telling law­mak­ers he would call a referendum if they do not agree. In his first ad­dress to mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly and Se­nate since his elec­tion in May, Macron de­liv­ered a USstyle state of the na­tion speech in the Ver­sailles palace, the for­mer seat of French kings, say­ing the coun­try must change. “Un­til now, we were too of­ten on the wrong track,” said the 39-yearold leader, who won of­fice on a prom­ise of po­lit­i­cal re­newal. “We pre­ferred pro­ce­dures to re­sults, rules to ini­tia­tive, a society where you live off in­her­ited wealth, to a just society.”

He con­firmed a plan to im­ple­ment re­form of France’s jaded po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, changes first raised dur­ing cam­paign­ing. That would in­clude shrink­ing the num­ber of law­mak­ers in both houses of par­lia­ment - 577 in the lower house Na­tional Assem­bly and 348 in the Se­nate - by a third, say­ing it would have “pos­i­tive ef­fects on the gen­eral qual­ity of par­lia­men­tary work”. Macron also pledged to in­tro­duce a de­gree of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion into France’s winner-take­sall elec­toral sys­tem. The move, long de­manded by small par­ties such as the far-right Na­tional Front, would en­sure “all ten­den­cies are fairly rep­re­sented”, he said.

The cen­trist pres­i­dent, who en­joys a large ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, said he hoped law­mak­ers would adopt the changes within a year but re­served the right to or­ga­nize a referendum “if nec­es­sary”. Macron’s de­ci­sion to con­vene a sit­ting of both houses of par­lia­ment - a rare event usu­ally re­served for times of cri­sis-was crit­i­cized by the op­po­si­tion, who saw his use of Ver­sailles as fur­ther proof of a “monar­chi­cal” drift. Some ac­cused Macron of try­ing to steal the thun­der of Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe, who will de­liver a key pol­icy speech to par­lia­ment on Tues­day.

The speech was Macron’s first ma­jor ad­dress in France since his in­au­gu­ra­tion in mid-May, when he promised to lead a “re­nais­sance”. He warned the newly-elected law­mak­ers against tri­umphal­ism in the face of the “grav­ity of the cir­cum­stances” both in France, which is grap­pling with a stag­nant econ­omy, and in Europe which had “lost its way”. “The build­ing of Europe has been weak­ened by the spread of bu­reau­cracy and by the grow­ing scep­ti­cism that comes from that,” Macron said. “The last 10 years have been cruel for Europe. We have man­aged crises but we have lost our way,” he said, adding that France would help drive a re­vival of the Euro­pean idea of “so­cial jus­tice”.

‘Pharaonic’ lead­er­ship

Last month Macron had al­ready rolled out the red car­pet in Ver­sailles, host­ing Russia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin there for talks in­stead of the pres­i­den­tial palace in Paris. Jean-Luc Me­len­chon, the leader of the rad­i­cal left­ist France Un­bowed party, boy­cotted the speech, ac­cused Macron of “cross­ing a line with the pharaonic as­pect of his pres­i­den­tial monar­chy”. The leader of the small cen­trist UDI party, Jean-Christophe La­garde, ac­cused the pres­i­dent of “a PR stunt”.

On Sun­day, Macron drew fur­ther crit­i­cism for a speech last week to a group of en­trepreneurs in which he drew a dis­tinc­tion be­tween “peo­ple who suc­ceed and those who are noth­ing”. Far­right Na­tional Front leader Marine Le Pen, whom Macron de­feated in May’s pres­i­den­tial run-off, con­demned the re­mark as “un­wor­thy” and “re­veal­ing of Macro­nist think­ing”. The speech comes a week af­ter the gov­ern­ment un­veiled a bill that would al­low it to use de­crees to fast­track la­bor over­hauls through par­lia­ment us­ing de­crees. Some op­po­si­tion par­ties have ac­cused Macron of neu­ter­ing the assem­bly. “When you do not share power you may be more ef­fi­cient but you are also per­haps a lit­tle less demo­cratic,” said Chris­tian Ja­cob, the par­lia­men­tary leader of the Repub­li­cans, the main op­po­si­tion.—AFP

PARIS: French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron walks through the Ga­lerie des Bustes (Busts Gallery) to ac­cess the Ver­sailles Palace’s hemi­cy­cle for a spe­cial congress gath­er­ing both houses of par­lia­ment (Na­tional Assem­bly and Se­nate) in the Palace of Ver­sailles yes­ter­day. — AFP

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