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ELECTION

France to ban MPs from hiring family members as Macron’s government moves to clean up politics

France's new government announced a new bill on Thursday aimed at cleaning up politics after a flurry of recent scandals and restoring the faith of a French public who deeply distrust their political leaders.

France to ban MPs from hiring family members as Macron's government moves to clean up politics
Photo: AFP

The reform was announced by François Bayrou (see photo below), the man recently named by Emmanuel Macron as France's Justice Minister. He said the government's aim was to restore faith in the country's politicians.

Bayrou's much-hyped bill includes a standout measure that would bar MPs from hiring family members as their parliamentary assistants or indeed in any other roles.

That means sons, daughters, parents or indeed husbands and wives.

The move comes after January's revelations over the alleged fake parliamentary job that defeated presidential candidate François Fillon gave his wife Penelope, that led to him being charged by investigators.

The scandal known as “Penelope gate” was credited with Fillon's humiliating performance in the presidential election when he became the first right wing candidate not to make the second round runoff vote.

Among the other proposals announced by Bayrou was a plan to bar individuals from seeking elected positions for 10 years if they have been convicted of any crime, either serious or minor, relating to financial fraud or corruption.

And MPs finances will also be altered. From now expenses will be reimbursed only with the production of valid receipts, rather than previously where MPs were simply given a sum to cover their expenses.

“This isn't about making people think we will fix all the problems about individual morality with a new bill,” said Bayrou. “No one really believes that a bill will make all actors in public life virtuous.

“Institutions are not made to make people virtuous,” Bayrou said. “But knowing that not everyone is, they are made to help avoid instances where human weaknesses contaminate politics”.

Bayrou's bill comes as one of his fellow ministers Richard Ferrand, one of Macron's closest allies, is under increasing pressure to resign over allegations he favoured his wife in a lucrative deal with a public health insurance fund when he headed the company. 

Bayrou also wants to end the notion of “one rule for politicians and another rule for everyone else”. He wants to scrap the Court of Justice of the Republic which is a separate jurisdiction for ministers. In future their misdemeanors will be judged by magistrates and not parliamentarians.

Other measures will prevent former presidents from joining France's Constitutional Council as well as limiting elected representatives such as MPs to three terms in the same office.

He also wants to create a “bank of democracy” for the financing of election campaigns.

MPs will also be forced to declare conflicts or interest and be barred from voting on any issues where there is a clash.

Macron has repeatedly vowed to clean up politics after the Fillon fake jobs scandal made corruption among politicians a major election issue.

A poll carried out by the Cevipof research institute before the presidential election found that the mast majority of French people believed their politicians were corrupt.

ELECTION

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”

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