Emmanuel Macron managed to push through a flagship immigration bill on Tuesday night – but this victory came at a huge price, as it left the French President’s government coalition deeply scarred.
Signs of the cracks in the coalition have already started to appear, as Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau submitted his resignation on Wednesday in response to the adoption of the legislation.
More may quit in the next hours, as Mr Rousseau had reportedly set up a meeting with France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne alongside Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau and Housing Minister Patrice Vergriete.
The controversial legislation approved by the French Parliament is introducing a series of measures reducing access to social security benefits to foreigners.
Non-French nationals will be able to apply for state welfare aid only after being residents in France for at least five years – or 30 months if they have a job.
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These measures are clearly reminiscent of those same policies Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party has been demanding for years.
Indeed, despite Ms Le Pen’s being Mr Macron’s arch-enemy on the political stage, the National Rally voted in favour of the latest version of the government’s bill – leaving red-faced many in the French President’s party.
The final vote saw a total of 349 MPs – including members of Mr Macron’s centrist coalition, the conservatives and 88 National Rally MPs – approving the bill, while 186 politicians voted against it.
A whopping 27 MPs belonging to the French President’s centrist coalition voted against the latest version of the legislation.
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Mr Macron is now left to deal with protests from the left, which opposed the bill, allegations he is pandering to far-right voters and a coalition in tatters.
The co-head of the Centrist Liberties, Independents, Overseas and Territories group, Bertrand Pancher, had asked the government to withdraw the text “as we are facing a grave political crisis”. While the LIOT group is not part of Mr Macron’s coalition, it often supports the government.
Far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon hit out at the president calling the legislation a “sickening victory”.
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Taking to social media, he added: “Without the 88 votes of the National Rally [the government would have] less than the absolute majority … A new political axis is appearing.”
Patrick Kanner, leader of the Socialists in the Senate, also criticised the bill, saying: “The government is falling into a populist ravine, under the greedy eye of the far right”.
The one leader to seemingly come out a winner from this political chaos is three-time presidential candidate and leader of the National Rally’s MPs – Ms Le Pen.
Following the vote, she said: “We can rejoice in ideological progress, an ideological victory even for the National Rally, since this is now enshrined into law as a national priority.”
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