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POLITICS

French Green party boss resigns in fresh blow to left

The head of France's Greens party resigned on Monday after being accused of "psychological violence" by a former partner, dealing a fresh blow to the country's beleaguered left-wing political coalition.

French Green party boss resigns in fresh blow to left
Julien Bayou arriving for a meeting in June. Bayou has been accused of psychological harassment by his ex-girlfriend. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Julien Bayou, head of the Europe Ecology Greens party (EELV), said in a statement that he was stepping down due to the “unsustainable” nature of his position.

He has denied the allegations and said he would remain an MP, adding that the decision did not call into question “my current or future commitment”.

The environmentalist came under pressure last week after fellow EELV lawmaker Sandrine Rousseau told a TV show that she had met Bayou’s former partner, who was “very depressed”.

Bayou “has behaviour that causes women mental breakdowns,” Rousseau claimed.

The explosive allegations came amid a separate scandal that has enveloped the fellow left-wing party France Unbowed (LFI), where a senior MP recently admitted hitting his wife during a break up.

Rousseau has faced criticism for publicly undermining a colleague on the basis of allegations about his private life that have not been reported to the police.

Bayou called it “Kafka on social networks”, adding that he had “been accused of things that have not been stated (to me), which the accusers say are not punishable as a crime.”

An internal EELV committee that investigates gender-based or sexual violence began a probe into Bayou in July.

At the time, he said he was going through a “breakup that includes barely concealed threats to me and a form of manipulation that I can only condemn.”

After years in the political wilderness, France’s left-wing parties grouped together in a coalition known as “Nupes” for parliamentary elections in June.

The alliance raised hopes they might serve as a united opposition to the centrist ruling alliance of President Emmanuel Macron, but it has struggled to maintain a common front.

Communist party head Fabien Roussel broke ranks publicly with his partners in mid-September, when he said the left “must defend the notion of work, and not be the left of benefits and social security.”

Rousseau replied that “work was a value of the right”, adding that people had “the right to be lazy” and that the left should be focused on reducing the length of the working week.

Allegations about harassment and assault are rife in French politics, surfacing regularly since the #MeToo movement against sexual violence began in 2017.

In July, Damien Abad, a right-winger who was named minister in Macron’s freshly installed centrist government, was forced to step down over rape allegations.

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POLITICS

French MPs vote to add the right to abortion to the constitution

Lawmakers in the French parliament voted on Thursday to add the right to abortion to the constitution in response to recent changes in the United States and Poland.

French MPs vote to add the right to abortion to the constitution

Members of parliament from the left-wing La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party and the ruling centrist coalition agreed on Thursday on the wording of the new clause, which was then put to a larger vote.

“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy,” reads the proposed constitutional addition to article 66.

It was passed in the Assemblée nationale with a large majority – 337 to 32 against, but still needs to be approved in the Senate.    

“It’s a big step… but it’s just the first step,” said centrist MP Sacha Houlie from Macron’s Renaissance party.

The initiative was prompted by the US Supreme Court’s explosive decision this year to overturn the nationwide right to termination procedures for Americans.

In Europe, the conservative government of Poland has also heavily restricted abortion rights.

LFI lawmaker Mathilde Panot said the move was necessary in France to “protect ourselves against a regression”.   

In a speech to parliament, she cited the late French writer and women’s rights activist Simone de Beauvoir.

“We only need a political, economic or religious crisis for the rights of women to come into question,” she said.

The agreement was a rare instance of cooperation between the hard-left LFI and the centrist allies of President Emmanuel Macron – who no longer have an overall majority in the National Assembly.

A previous attempt to inscribe the right to abortion as well as contraception into the constitution, with different wording, was rejected by the conservative-dominated Senate in October.

Many conservative and Catholic politicians have announced their misgivings, seeing it as unnecessary given the legal protections already in place.

“It appears totally misplaced to open a debate which, although it exists in the United States, does not exist in France,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement this week.

“No political group is thinking about questioning access to abortions,” she said.

She voted in favour of the change on Thursday, while MPs from her party and the right-wing Les Républicains abstained.

Abortion was legalised in France in 1974 in a law championed by health minister Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon granted the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon by Macron upon her death in 2018.

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