Manuel Valls Faces Socialist Opposition.
France’s lawmakers Tuesday voted narrowly in favour of a plan to slash €50 billion from the country’s budget deficit by 2017, but a high abstention rate underscored discord within the Socialist majority.
The plan, designed to allow the eurozone’s second-largest economy to meet deficit-reduction commitments, passed with 265 votes in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, with 232 voting against and 67 abstaining.
The programme can now be submitted for approval to the European Commission, which has already granted France two extra years to bring its deficit below EU-mandated limits.
It is the brainchild of recently appointed Prime Minister Manuel Valls and targets the country’s generous welfare system in an aggressive drive to cut state spending.
More than 40 percent of the savings will come from cuts in social benefits and healthcare, another 18 billion is to be trimmed from the budgets of government ministries and the remaining 11 billion will come from restructuring local government.
“It’s a decisive vote that deeply emphasizes the advancement of our country,” Valls told parliament before the vote.
The plan has divided the ruling Socialist Party, however, and 41 of the party’s members abstained from the vote – a high rate pointing to resistance ahead as Valls tries to push through reform to revive the economy and spur growth while also meeting deficit-cutting goals.
While the Greens party and the left-wing Front de Gauche voted in the majority against the plan, the centrist UDI party mostly abstained.
A few members of the opposition UMP party, which overwhelmingly voted against the plan, also abstained.
The party’s leader Jean-François Copé denounced the plan as an “optical illusion”.
Economists are also sceptical as to whether the plan will allow the Socialist government to meet its goal of lowering its public deficit to three percent of output by the end of 2015.
Today Valls has defended his cuts plan,
«J’assume ce réformisme, j’assume cette social-démocratie ou, au fond, cette gauche profondément moderne, qui regarde la réalité en face et qui, en même temps, veut répondre à l’attente de justice sociale»
This reformism, that I have taken on, this social democracy, is a deeply modern left, one that faces up to reality and at the same time, wants to meet the expectations of social justice.”
Christian Paul (close to the moderate social democratic Martin Aubry) , amongst the Socialists who abstained, said that it was the result of “politically mature, considered policy by a group wounded by the results of the local election, and the feeling that the first 2 years of the (Socialist_) Presidency have not held to their promises.”, This was “Un vote d’alerte, pas un vote de défiance » a wake-up call, not an open challenge, he added.
Meanwhile news reaches us (thanks EY) that leading figures in the French Communist Party are concerned by the difficulties of working with Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the Front de Gauche and are re-thinking their whole approach to the bloc.
More :PCF : avec ou sans le Front de gauche ? Par And (l’Humanité) Des communistes pour une refondation ambitieuse du Front de gauche