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PM tells rebels 'we won't stop reforming France'

AFP/The Local · 20 Feb 2015, 08:16

Published: 20 Feb 2015 08:16 GMT+01:00

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A total of 234 mainly opposition deputies voted for the motion of no-confidence, far short of the number required to bring down the government.

The emergency vote was sparked when Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday employed a rarely-used constitutional device to force through a key package of reforms without a parliamentary vote.

He made this decision due to concerns the rebellion from within his own Socialist party would block the reforms, which now automatically go through after the failure of the no-confidence motion.

The reforms extend Sunday shopping and open up key parts of the French economy to competition.

The government says they are vital to "unblock" the eurozone's second-biggest economy, which is suffering from chronically high unemployment and sluggish growth.

They are also seen as crucial in Brussels, where the EU has urged France to reform in order to bring down its ballooning budget deficit, which is far above European limits.

"The French people expect us to act. For us to remove blockages. The main blockage is our too-weak growth. It prevents us from creating jobs, from reducing our mass unemployment that is hurting us so much," Valls told MPs.

"We will continue, with all the means given to us by the constitution. We will continue to reform without stopping. Without weakening we will continue to advance - for France and for the French people," Valls said.

Despite their anger over the reforms, the left-wing rump of the Socialist Party said they would not go so far as bringing down the government by backing the no-confidence motion.

"Voting for a no confidence motion submitted by the opposition is inconceivable for a Socialist," rebel MP Nathalie Chabanne, told The Local.

"We are still part of the majority and we are still Socialists. I am not going to abandon my convictions simply because I do not agree with a draft bill."

Story continues below…

But the reforms have split the party. On Wednesday, Valls condemned the "conservatism, irresponsibility and childishness" of those who oppose the bill.

The reforms will give the struggling French economy "a fresh lease of life," Valls said.

The opposition UMP party has seized on the government's need to force the bill through parliament -- the first time the constitutional device has been used since 2006 -- slamming Valls as weak and unable to carry his majority.

The head of the conservative UMP, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, said it was "the consequence of the repeated lies" of President Francois Hollande.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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