Macron Vows to Transform French Politics, Cut Number of MPs by One-Third

French President Emmanuel Macron walks through the Galerie des Bustes (Busts Gallery) to access the Versailles Palace's hemicycle where he gathered French parliamentarians and senators in order to deliver the main outlines of his policy in Versailles near Paris, France, 03 July 2017. Photo: Etienne Laurent/Pool/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • France’s President Macron has delivered a parliamentary address reminding of US-style ‘state-of-the-union” address.
  • He has promised to transform France’s politics.
  • Part of his plan is a reform reducing the number of MPs by one-third.
  • Another part is introducing some proportional representation into France’s majority political system.
  • Macron has been criticized by the opposition for what they say is a ‘monarchical drift’.

French President Emmanuel Macron has given his first address to the two houses of the French Parliament at Versailles vowing to transform France’s politics.

Earlier in June, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron’s political party La Republique En Marche! (REM – “The Republic on the Move!”) won an absolute majority after the second round of the elections for France’s National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.

The victory of Macron’s 16-month-old REM party was not as sweeping as it had been predicted by leading pollsters in France, including after the first round a week ago, and on top of that, the elections saw a record low turnout and a very high abstention rate.

Macron, a former Economy Minister in France’s Socialist government in 2014-2016, founded the centrist progressive political movement “En Marche!” (“Forward!”) last year before he ran for the French Presidency.

In the second round of the French presidential elections on May 7, 2017, Macron defeated far-right National Front’s leader Marine Le Pen, by 66.1% to 33.9% of the votes.

Following his win in the presidential vote, Macron changed the name of his party to La Republique En Marche! (“The Republic on the Move!”, abbreviated as LREM or REM), attracting dissenters from the French Socialist Party, the conservative Republicans party, and smaller parties.

On June 11 and June 18, the eligible French voters elected a total of 577 deputies in the 15th National Assembly (lower house of Parliament) of the Fifth Republic. Macron’s centrist party REM and its allies won a total of 350 seats.

The next elections for the French Senate, the upper house of France’s legislature, are scheduled for September 2017.

Photo: Eric Feferberg/Pool/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Procedures to Results’

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday promised a “profound transformation” of French politics in his first address to the French MPs in Versailles in what has been likened to a US-style state of the union speech, AFP reported.

“Until now, we were too often on the wrong track,” said the 39-year-old 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 added.

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 majority electoral system, a move long sought by small parties – including the far-right National Front, AFP notes.

In his words, a mixed electoral system would guarantee that “all tendencies are fairly represented.”

Macron said he hoped the French lawmakers would adopt the changes he has within a year but reserved the right to organize a referendum “if necessary”.

The “state of the union”- type speech in Versailles was Macron’s first 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, and a 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”.

‘Monarchical Drift’

France’s President was criticized for his decision to convene a sitting of both houses of parliament – usually reserved for times of crisis – and for doing so in Versailles, the former palace of the French monarchy.

Both decisions were seen by the opposition as evidence of his “monarchical” drift. As France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was to give a policy speech in parliament on Tuesday, Macron was also criticized for overshadowing him.

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”.

A Kantar Sofres-Onepoint poll published last Thursday showed Macron’s approval ratings starting to dip, falling three points in a month to 54%.

“We’re seeing a strange, almost schizophrenic mix, of goodwill and distrust (towards Macron),” Pierre Giacometti, a co-founder of the No Com polling firm, told Le Journal du Dimanche weekly.

“The French already want results,” Giacometti added.

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