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Bayrou reveals plan to clean up French politics

French Justice Minister François Bayrou picks up a copy of the penal code at the press conference
French Justice Minister François Bayrou picks up a copy of the penal code at the press conference AFP

French Justice Minister François Bayrou outlined his proposals to clean up French politics but was faced with questions about accusations of dubious practices against Housing and Urban Planning Minister Richard Ferrrand at a press conference on Thursday.

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Bayrou seemed annoyed, if unsurprised, that the first questions at his press conference were about the Ferrand affair and told journalists that the law forbade him from commenting on individual cases and he would leave it to public prosecutors in Brest, who opened an investigation on Thursday morning, to handle this one.

"I've never believed that people were virtuous, I'm not saying in this case, we don't know," he said. "I have never believed in a universally imposed morality, in individual virtue, there are weaknesses everywhere."

Ban on MPs employing family members

The reform will be put to parliament in the form of two bills within a few weeks, he said, and outlined its main points:

  • MPs will be banned from employing members of their own families;

  • MPs, senators and members of local authorities will be forbidden from standing for reelection to the same position more than once, with the exception of small local councils, where it is difficult to find candidates;

  • Ministers will be banned from having seats on local authorities;

  • Political parties will not be allowed to accept funding from "personnes morales" - groups such as businesses - apart from European banks and parties;

  •  Former presidents will no longer sit on the Constitutional Council, France's highest court which judges the validity of laws passed by parliament;

  • The Court of Justice of the Republic, a body made up largely of MPs which judges cases against ministers, is to be abolished, ministers' cases will go to the Paris appeal court but there will be a "filter" to prevent malicious attempts to destabilise governments.

The French political scene has been shaken by a series of scandals, among them several legal cases faced by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, accusations that mainstream right presidential candidate François Fillon provided fake jobs for his family and the European parliament finding that far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen provided fake jobs for party activists.

Such practices have "shattered and fractured the confidence our citizens should have in their representatives", Bayrou commented.

The reform will be entitled "For confidence in our democratic life", he announced.

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