France

French right hails Valls's pro-business turn, left revolt fizzles out

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls addresses the National Assembly
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls addresses the National Assembly Screenshot

French opposition politicians hailed a turn to pro-business policies by new Prime Minister Manuel Valls after his speech to parliament on Tuesday. That did not stop them voting no in a vote of confidence in Valls's new government, although revolt by the left of his Socialist Party petered out.

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"In fact, the prime minister has confirmed the idea that a pro-business policy will be implemented while an anti-business policy was implemented over the last two years," former budget minister Eric Woerth, of the mainstream right UMP, told RFI on Wednesday.

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He welcomed Valls's cuts in bosses' social security contributions, as did other UMP members, although several questioned how Valls intended to pay for them.

While President François Hollande had committed the government to saving 50 billion euros in his Responsibility Pact with employers and 20 billion in tax credits and Valls had proposed another 25 billion euros in contributions reductions, he only explained how he was going to save 39 billion euros in his speech, former prime minister François Fillon told RTL radio.

The prime minister said that the extra 11 billion euros would come from the social security budget on Wednesday.

Trade unions expressed their concern over the cuts and wanted to know whether employers would keep their part of the Responsibility Pact bargain.

Laurent Berger, of the CFDT union federation, said he would ask how the government intends to monitor the job creation that is supposed to result from the reduction of labour costs when he meets Valls on Friday and expressed concern that the cuts may affect anti-poverty programmes and public sector salaries.

The government easily survived the vote of confidence, with 306 voting for, 239 against and 26 abstentions.

The Communists and their allies in the Left Front voted against, after abstaining when previous prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault formed his government.

Although the Green party EELV quit the government when Valls was appointed, only one of their MPs voted against, with six abstaining and 10 voting for.

And the left of the Socialist Party, which has hinted at a revolt in the run-up to the vote, finally mostly fell into line with just 11 abstaining and none voting against.

After naming his 18-member cabinet last week, Valls was to name junior minister on Wednesday.

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