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1ST LEAD French parliament approves second tranche of Macron's ethics reform By Pol O Gradaigh, dpa

Europe
09.08.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Paris (dpa) - The French National Assembly approved a second law on political ethics proposed by the government in a 412 to 74 vote before going into its summer recess on Wednesday.

The law was the last in a series of acts President Emmanuel Macron had sought to have passed in an exceptional session after parliamentary elections in June.

The new law places restrictions on consultancy work by members of parliament, although it does not ban them outright as Macron‘s manifesto had pledged.

It also abolishes discretionary funds that they could distribute to local entities.

That provision was held up by the Senate but the upper house was overruled in Wednesday‘s vote by the National Assembly.

Another ethics law, passed last week, bans lawmakers and ministers from employing members of their families as aides and makes those convicted of certain offences ineligible for election to parliament.

Macron‘s rise in the polls during the election campaign came after satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine alleged that the wife of his conservative rival, Francois Fillon, had taken a salary as her husband‘s parliamentary aide for years without actually working.

The two ethics laws had to be passed separately because of the second law‘s constitutional implications.

Conservative lawmaker Philippe Gosselin warned that abolishing the discretionary funds would hit civil society and France‘s smallest communes.

Communist deputy Jean-Paul Lecoq took aim at a number of ethical and legal rows that have already hit Macron‘s government.

The original sponsor of the ethics laws, Macron‘s first justice minister Francois Baroin, stepped aside in June amid allegations his Democratic Movement party had improperly paid staffers with funds intended for European Parliament assistants.

The party denied those claims.

Lecoq charged that the government was "flirting with populism" by implying that the main ethical problems were in parliament, while the presidency was "at the orders of [employers‘ organization] Medef."

But lawmaker Yael Braun-Privet of Macron‘s centrist La Republique en Marche (The Republic on the Move) defended the law.

"We are putting an end to this old system which was not entirely bad but involved a suspicion of clientelism, that poison that weakens citizens‘ confidence in political life," she argued.

With the government as well as parliament going into summer recess on Wednesday, government spokesman Christophe Castaner argued that much had been accomplished.

"We have begun work on all the major structural issues," he said.

In its special session, parliament has passed a law allowing the government to reform France‘s complicated and highly protective labours by decree, another key Macron commitment.

It has also approved an extension of the state of emergency imposed after terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 until November, and the Senate has passed a law with new security measures intended to take effect when the state of emergency lapses.

However, Macron‘s popularity has taken a hit in polls after a series of spending cuts announced in response to a state audit report that identified a hole in the budget adopted by the previous government.

Military joint chief of staff General Philippe de Villiers resigned last month after a barely veiled public rebuke from Macron when he objected to cuts to military spending, while a 5-euro (5.87-dollar) cut to monthly rental benefits for France‘s poorest families has also attracted criticism.

 

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