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Macron wants to trim French parliament

July 3, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he will reduce the number of representatives in both of France's legislative chambers by a third. Macron said streamlining parliament would allow laws to be drafted more quickly.

Frankreich Emmanuel Macron, vor Rede in Versailles
Image: Reuters/E. Laurent

Macron pledges to transform France

Speaking at the Palace of Versailles on Monday, Emmanuel Macron said France was ready to embark on a "radically new path," announcing sweeping changes to the country's voting system.

Macron proposed cutting the number of delegates in both the upper and lower houses of parliament by a third, saying it would have "positive effects on the general quality of parliamentary work."

Read: Can France liberalize pensions and labor under Macron?

"A parliament with fewer MPs and greater resources would be a parliament that is more fluid. I will propose to reduce by a third the members of the constitutional assembly," Macron said, while stressing he was "not giving in" to a sense of anti-parliamentarianism.

"We need long-term perspective, but we must also act quickly and swiftly, therefore the shuffle between the two houses of parliament must be simplified," he said. "The pace of designing laws must meet the demands of society," he added, citing digital copyright and security as areas where rapid legislative responses were needed.

No dragging of feet

To ensure that there would be action, Macron proposed a referendum if parliament had not voted reforms into law within a year.

"I want... us to avoid half-measures and cosmetic arrangements," he said. "These reforms will be submitted to a vote in parliament but, if necessary, I will have recourse to a vote by our fellow citizens in a referendum."

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Macron also suggested some "simple" bills should be voted upon in parliamentary commissions, rather than full sessions. The president, who defeated his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in an election in May, and his centrist LREM party achieved a substantial majority in France's 577-seat National Assembly.

Efficiency, representation, responsibility

Macron also said he would "this autumn" lift a state of emergency in effect since the attacks in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people.

"I will re-establish the freedoms of the French people by lifting the state of emergency this autumn, because these freedoms are the precondition of the existence of a strong democracy," Macron said.

Early last month, Macron gathered government ministers and security officials to create a counterterrorism task force. He has also allocated 50 million euros ($56 million) to fight terrorism in Africa's Sahel region,which is seen as a breeding ground for extremists.

In a lengthy preamble to his proposals, Macron made references to French history and stressed the need "to identify what needs to be corrected, amended and rectified." The 39-year-old said he would follow three principles: efficiency, representation and responsibility.

The event was attended by members of the Senate as well as the newly-elected National Assembly.

The venue of the speech - the former seat of French kings - has caused some consternation, with critics citing it as evidence of a growing concentration of power. Former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon accused Macron of instituting a "Jupiterian monarchy."

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.