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French government faces confidence votes ahead of EU election

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
French government faces confidence votes ahead of EU election
France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal addresses the audience during the final campaign rally of France's centrist group Renaissance ahead of the European elections. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

France's government on Monday faced two motions of no confidence - albeit with little chance of passing - as political temperatures rise ahead of Sunday's European Parliament election.

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The bids to unseat Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and his government come from opposite ends of the political spectrum -- the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) and the far-right Rassemblement National (RN).

Launched in rebuke of ministers over budget cuts decreed without parliamentary debate, Monday's motions de censure (no-confidence votes) are a last major political set-piece before election campaigning is overshadowed by the 80th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings for the rest of this week.

A 289-strong absolute majority would be needed to topple the government in Monday's votes.

Even combining the strength of the RN and the spectrum of left-wing parties, the hurdle cannot be reached without support from the right-wing Les Républicains party - who for now are expected to sit on the sidelines.

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The prospect of a motion de censure is not an unusual one in the French parliament - previous Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne survived more than 20 such votes.

If the vote does attract a majority, the prime minister would be required to resign - although it does not affect the position of the president as French presidents are appointed on fixed-term mandates.

Opposition politicians are "looking to cause disorder", Attal charged in an interview with broadcaster FranceInfo.

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His government has been in place for just a few months and looks set for embarrassment on Sunday, with the centrist Renaissance party that holds most of the cabinet posts polling at around 16 percent, compared with the far-right RN's 32 percent.

RN lead candidate Jordan Bardella urged voters "not to be spectators of (France's) decline" in a weekend rally that drew around 5,000 people in Paris.

The 28-year-old's challenge to Attal, 35, has been cast as a battle for dominance of the next generation of French politics.

For his part, Attal told broadcaster France 3 that his Renaissance party list could "of course" beat the odds to come out on top, adding that "that's what we're all fighting for".

"It's not over yet" was the omnipresent slogan at a Renaissance rally in Paris suburb Aubervilliers Saturday.

The party of President Emmanuel Macron must also fend off a challenge from the centre-left Socialists, whose charismatic lead candidate Raphael Glucksmann is polling at around 13 percent.

Macron himself will give a prime-time TV interview on Thursday when he is expected to address the elections, the war in Ukraine and the Israeli campaign in Gaza.

He will be front and centre throughout this week as he hosts figures including US President Joe Biden and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky for the anniversary of the vast 1944 amphibious invasion that kicked off the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi German occupation.

Monday's debates will see the government defend its pursuit of tighter budgets, days after France's debt was downgraded by ratings agency S&P - although no details of cuts have yet been announced.

LFI has accused ministers of imposing "unprecedented austerity" that would be "unbearable in social terms and ineffective in fiscal terms". The hard-left outfit has called for higher taxes on the rich rather than cuts, while Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has ruled out increasing levies.

LFI is hoping for a boost from focusing on such classic social themes, after its campaign centering on the Gaza conflict has failed to draw broad support.

The party is polling at just 8.5 percent days ahead of the vote.

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