PARIS (AP) – Faced with yet another revolt from a group of Socialists over how to fix France’s ailing economy, the French prime minister is being forced to defend his pro-business policies to lawmakers from his own party. Though Manuel Valls will probably win Thursday’s showdown vote on a censure motion, at stake is the question of whether Socialism – and France – should evolve to meet Europe’s economic expectations.
The plan to free up labour rules and regulations, authored by Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, has improbably put some Socialist lawmakers in the same camp as their most conservative counterparts.
The bill includes a patchwork of measures from allowing more stores to open on Sundays and evenings, making it easier for employers to lay off workers, and fostering greater competition in regulated professions such as auctioneers and notaries.
Valls, who will speak to Parliament later Thursday, this week rammed the bill through without a vote by invoking rarely used special powers. That drew a censure motion by the conservative opposition, and suddenly an obscure article in the French constitution became a cause celebre for a group of Socialist mavericks who contested Macron’s bill.
But the rebellion only goes so far. Even Socialists who hate the measure do not want to risk their majority. If Valls loses the vote Thursday, the government falls.
France’s Socialist party is fractured between a pro-business faction – including Valls and Macron – and others who want to protect French industry and the country’s considerable social and health benefits.
“The left which does nothing, achieves nothing,” Macron said Wednesday on French television BFM TV. “The right, which did nothing and doesn’t propose anything, achieves nothing. So we are moving forward”.
“We have no time to lose,” French President Francois Hollande said during the Cabinet meeting Wednesday, in comments reported by government spokesman Stephane Le Foll. Hollande added he was confident that the government would win the vote.
Hollande has pointed to the measure as an important demonstration of goodwill toward EU authorities, who allowed France yet again to put off reducing its deficit.
Facing a lagging economy and an unemployment rate above 10 per cent, Hollande changed tactics in January 2014 when he announced a plan to lower taxes and spur employment.