French MP’s Vote on Constitution Changes in Wake of Paris AttacksFebruary 11, 2016 in France
On Wednesday, French MP’s voted overwhelming to change state-of-emergency provisions in the constitution, which were drawn up after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris.
The lower house voted 317-199 in order to adopt the package of measures, which includes changes to give a new status under the constitution to the state of emergency, which is currently in force. There were 51 abstentions. The package of measures also allows terror convicts to be stripped of their citizenship. The package will now go to the Senate before a meeting of the joint houses of parliament. It needs support from the Senate and will then have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of a joint session of parliament, which is likely to take weeks or months. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s vote is a significant victory for the French government, which has faced opposition from leading voices, and some from amongst its own ranks. Speaking shortly after the vote, Prime Minister Manuel Valls disclosed that he was “satisfied” with the result and that he was confident that senators would also approve the changes.
In the wake of the 13 November 2015 terror attacks in Paris by gunmen and suicide bombers who targeted a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded, French President Francois Hollande promised changes as his government seeks to ensure the French people that they are safe, despite growing threats and several previous attacks and thwarted attempts.
Several government officials however are opposed to the new changes. Two weeks ago, France’s left-wing justice minister, Christian Taubira, resigned, citing a “major political disagreement” with the government. She was amongst several political figures who objected to the government’s proposals because they singled out those with dual nationality. Despite the opposition, government whips have indicated that they are confident of a majority in the lower house. However it must be noted that even if they are correct, there is still a long parliamentary battle that lies ahead.
Under the current terms of the state of emergency, which has been in place since 13 November, police are allowed to raid homes and hold people under house arrest. The state of emergency is due to expire on 26 February, however the government wants the powers extended. Under Article 1 of the constitutional reform proposals, MP’s will have to approve a state of emergency beyond twelve days. This rule is already observed, but including it in the constitution is intended to protect it from legal challenges. MP’s have also backed an amendment requiring any extension beyond four months to be referred back to them. On Tuesday, the chamber was only a quarter full during the vote, with 441 deputies absent out of a total of 577. The house later voted through the proposal on nationality however the amendment does not mention dual nationality.