French MPs vote on post-attacks constitution changes

10th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

French lawmakers will vote on Wednesday on a controversial package of measures to change the constitution in the wake of the terror attacks on Paris in November.

One of the measures proposed by President Francois Hollande would strip people convicted of terrorism of their French nationality, a contested move that has led to the resignation of the justice minister.

Another would enshrine in the constitution the state of emergency which is currently in force, giving security forces greater powers.

The lower house of parliament has voted through both measures separately this week, but the collective package of measures still requires the support of lawmakers on Wednesday before it can pass on to the upper house, the Senate.

For it to be fully adopted, it will then also need the support of three-fifths of the Congress, the body formed when both houses meet at the Palace of Versailles to vote on revisions to the constitution.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said late Tuesday he was confident the reforms would pass, and warned lawmakers from his Socialist Party that voting against them would "put the government in difficulty and leave the president in a minority".

He said France faces a terrorist threat "without doubt more serious than before November 13" when gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Parisian bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France stadium.

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the carnage, saying it was in response to French air strikes against the group in Iraq and Syria.

- Year of attacks -

It was the second time in a year that jihadists had struck at the French capital. In January 2015, gunmen attacked the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

The measure to strip convicted terrorists of nationality was passed by 162 votes to 148 with 22 abstentions on Tuesday, following weeks of debate.

The nationality measure has strong public support but has deeply divided Hollande's party.

Christiane Taubira resigned as justice minister last month over her opposition to the measure and Hollande's former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has publicly condemned the proposal.

Socialist lawmakers, those from former president Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing Republicans party and the centrist party UDI party, voted in favour of the measure, but Socialist fringe parties and most of the ecologist lawmakers were opposed.

On Monday, lawmakers voted in favour of the other key measure, the move to give the state of emergency a new status in the constitution.

Rights groups say the police are abusing their powers under the state of emergency, but the government argues that it is an essential step to protect the nation at a time when France could face another jihadist attack.

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© 2016 AFP

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