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Macron budget plans passed

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-07-28 09:30

But deep opposition reveals the fight ahead for ruling Ensemble coalition

French President Emmanuel Macron [Photo/Agencies]

France's President Emmanuel Macron was given a taste of a difficult future in the early hours of Wednesday morning after his budget revision text was passed by the country's National Assembly, but only after heated debate.

The legislation includes nearly 10 billion euros ($10.1 billion) for the full nationalization of energy company EDF, and also a pay rise for public sector workers. It will now go to the upper house, the Senate, which is dominated by the conservative Les Republicans, for further scrutiny.

In April, Macron became the first president since Jacques Chirac in 2002 to be re-elected for a second term, but the joy of supporters of his En Marche party was shortlived as just weeks later, his Ensemble coalition lost its absolute majority in the Assembly elections, making him the first president in more than 20 years to suffer such an electoral setback.

Although the alliance is still the largest Parliamentary bloc, with 245 out of 577 seats, Macron faces years of careful negotiating and bridge building if he wants to get his legislative program through, with divisive issues such as pension reform likely to prove particularly difficult stumbling blocks.

When the votes were counted on Wednesday, 341 assembly members had voted in favor of the proposals, 116 against and 21 abstained.

"Building majorities for projects to provide real solutions to the French people: we succeeded," tweeted Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne afterwards.

That success was not straightforward, though. Opposition parties highlighted the vulnerability of the government's grasp on power by coming close to voting through a windfall tax on companies such as TotalEnergies and container shipping group CMA CGM, which have benefited from the recent increase in prices in the energy and logistics sectors.

Instead of imposed measures, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and the government have called on companies to do away with the need for such steps by reducing prices to consumers.

After the measures were approved, Le Maire said the government and its backers were now "more united, more solid and more coherent".

The Macron government has already encountered hostility in the first weeks of the new Parliament, with one member likening the confrontational atmosphere to that between rival fans at a soccer match.

A meaningful vote of no confidence in Borne was held after she denied opposition parties the symbolic one that they are usually granted, and on July 12 the government suffered its first defeat after a plan to give it powers to demand travelers show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 was rejected by opposition groups.

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