16. National Assembly: a crucial test for the Valls government

Vote of confidence in the National Assembly

The main political event of week 15 in France is the vote of confidence asked for by the new government. It will take place in the National Assembly this Tuesday at 15:00 CET. The Constitution of the Fifth Republic does not require the government to engage its responsability after the nomination of a new Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has the right to deliver an introductory speech (“general policy statement”) in front of the National Assembly (it is a tradition new governments usually follow), but the vote is absolutely not obligatory. Why would the Valls government choose to ask for the vote when President Hollande already announced that he would link the so-called “Responsibility Pact” to a motion of confidence?

Constitution, Article 49. “The Prime Minister, after deliberation by the Council of Ministers, may make the Government’s programme or possibly a general policy statement an issue of a vote of confidence before the National Assembly.”

National Assembly majority in peril?

Because this government is not as stable as the previous one. The situation is more risky. 90-100 members of parliament are dissatisfied with the performance of President Hollande and want to see a clear policy shift “to the left”. These MPs want to pressure the new government (lead by Manuel Valls, a “right winger” among socialists). These MPs are also aware of the fact that the Responsibility Pact is a signature legislation for Mr. Hollande and thus he cannot afford to let it go. They want to make sure therefore that their ideas we’ll be reflected in the final legislation and that the Responsibility Pact will not mean a “free gift” to companies, that is, “to the capital”.

There is a delicate balance to be found inside the Socialist Party: how to remain faithful to socialist ideas and how to be pracmatic at the same time? If the Socialist Party, the President and PM Manuel Valls are unable to find this balance, the socialist majority in the National Assembly might be endangered by dissention. So this week’s vote of confidence in the National Assembly is a crucial test for the Valls government: it will show how the new PM and the President are able to handle their majority in Parliament.

Left wing radicals to protest

Note that the pressure is huge from the outside, not only on the President and on the government, but on the parliamentary group as well. The result of the municipal elections that took place recently is loud and clear: the French people want a change, whatever that might be. Left wing radicals have already decided to mobilize against the government, its policies and its alleged “shift to the right”. On 12 April, they will invite their supporters to go down the streets. The impact of the mobilization might influence the strategy of the Socialist Party, as they will need radical voters in 2017. But not right now. So there is room for a little political game ahead of the 25 May European Parliamentary elections, where radical left wingers would like to achieve a good result, too.

The week ahead

To download the “The week in France” document for week 15, please click on the following link: theweekinfrance15-2014.

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