- Title: FRANCE-POLITICS/VOTE French government survives no confidence vote
- Date: 19th February 2015
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (FEBRUARY 19, 2015) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
- Embargoed: 6th March 2015 12:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA5H3SMT7VACMM9B8WQ0FHHFH83
- Story Text: France's Socialist government survived a parliament no-confidence vote called by opposition conservatives on Thursday (February 19) after it resorted to a controversial decree to bypass broad opposition to a flagship economic reform bill.
Some 234 lawmakers voted in favour of the motion, according to the official vote tally -- well short of the 289 votes needed to secure an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament.
The challenge was made after Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday resorted to a little-used mechanism to push through a package of economically liberal reforms - dubbed "Macron's law" after the country's economy minister Emmanuel Macron - and opposed by the left.
The stand-off highlighted tensions between President Francois Hollande and Valls on the centrist wing of the Socialist Party and rebels on the left, auguring battles ahead over other moves aimed at kick-starting the euro zone's second largest economy and convincing EU partners France can reform.
The opposition said resorting to the obscure measure dubbed "49-3" was undemocratic and the conservative UMP party's leader and ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy said it was proof of Hollande's weakness.
"If you use the nuclear weapon of the 49-3 for the tiny 'Macron's law", how is he (Hollande) going to pass the big reforms he's announced?" he told Europe 1 radio.
"All observers agree on this point: this 49-3 is proof of the weakness of the president, at first within his own majority, but ultimately with the French too," Sarkozy said.
However the outcome of the no-confidence vote came as little surprise after Socialist leaders said they would eject from the party any lawmaker who joined the censure motion. A Reuters reporter in parliament said no Socialist did so.
The left-wing of the party who were opposed to the reform bill, nevertheless expected to reject the no confidence bid.
"I am not going to vote for this no confidence motion which comes from the UMP, which is obsessed with revenge, who don't care about the French people. But I do care about them and I invite the government to come and talk to us, and actually the whole country, about measures which could take the whole country forward," left-winger Pouria Amirshahi said before the debate.
A no-confidence vote has only succeeded once in France's 57-year-old Fifth Republic: in 1962, when it was used to oust the government of Georges Pompidou.
The failure of the no-confidence vote means the package of economic reforms automatically passes its first reading in parliament and the government has the right to use the same decree to push them through subsequent readings.
They include rule to expand Sunday trading hours and deregulate some sectors. While mild by the standards of many European countries, they sparked a revolt by dozens of backbench Socialist lawmakers.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, addressing parliament before the vote, vowed to continue with the reforms proposed.
"I'm telling you now, always in the spirit of dialogue but without faltering, we shall carry on with all the means given to us by the constitution. We shall continue our reforms without giving up, we shall keep moving forward without weakening, for France and for the French people," he said.
Hollande has also pledged to enact further reforms to laws requiring small companies to create worker representation councils as soon as they employ 50 or more staff, and also wants to streamline industrial dispute arrangements.
Such plans are also likely to run into resistance from the left, and under the constitution the government can only use the "49-3" decree on one bill per parliamentary session.
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