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French PM warns party: ability to govern under question

Reuters/Stephane Mahe

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a tense meeting of Socialist MPs on Tuesday that the Socialists’ very ability to govern was under question, as a rebel group of MPs gains momentum.


On Tuesday, the frondeurs, a group of Socialist MPs who strongly disagree with the economic direction in which Valls is taking the Socialist government, announced that they would probably abstain in next week’s vote of confidence.

If they do abstain, the government is unlikely to lose the vote entirely but such a result would be humiliating for Valls and President François Hollande.

They want a strong vote of confidence to help smooth the passage of the business-friendly policies they maintain are needed to spark an economic recovery.

Valls has always been clearly on the right of the Socialist party but Hollande has only recently openly embraced such economic policies and many Socialist MPs say their voters feel let down and betrayed by Hollande.

The Socialist Party is paying the price for failing to resolve such issues while in opposition, as Britain’s Labour Party did under Tony Blair.

Many of the problems which have arisen since Hollande became president result from this failure to win policy arguments within the party before the Socialists won power. In government, the many currents within the party have often appeared to be pulling in different directions.

Valls was not originally expected at the meeting but spent two hours telling MPs that much was at stake: “There is so much doubt, defiance, such a crisis of confidence in the country that we must be capable of governing with dignity and staying on course towards the recovery of this country,” he declared.

Socialist MP Odile Saugues, who attended the meeting, said afterwards that Valls told them “the question is no longer can the Socialists stay in government in the long term, but can the Socialists govern?”

After a particularly rocky few weeks, which saw Hollande plunge still further in the polls, there have been renewed demands from political opponents for the President to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

A large number of Socialist MPs would probably then lose their seats.
Valls has annoyed those on the left of the Socialist Party by suggesting that the only alternative to his government’s policies is a right-wing or a far-right government.

At the weekend, Valls spoke of the National Front being “at the gates of power” in France, after an opinion poll suggested that if a presidential election were held today, the FN’s Marine le Pen would comfortably reach the second round and could actually win a second round runoff.

Cécile Duflot of the environmentalist EELV party, who was housing minister in Hollande’s government until she resigned in March this year, rejected the notion suggested by Valls that those who opposed his government line were facilitating the rise of the FN. She qualified such insinuations as “detestable.”

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