French opposition hails victory after derailing debate over Covid vaccine pass
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French lawmakers have suspended debate over a bill to transform the country's Covid health pass into a vaccine pass. The move that has allowed opposition parties to claim victory in an election year by derailing the government’s timeline to have the legislation passed by 15 January.
Already heated discussions in parliament on the bill were suspended after midnight on Monday after a majority of deputies present voted to suspend the late-night session.
The move caught the government’s LaRem party by surprise, and there were not enough lawmakers physically present to block the motion.
The legislation being debated would make it mandatory for people to show proof of vaccination to go to restaurants or cinemas or other public spaces, and remove the option of showing a recent negative test.
The government argues this is necessary to stop the rapid spread of Covid, driven by the Omicron variant, but the legislation has faced strong resistance from the far-right National Rally and the hard-left France unbowed, whose MPs have vowed to vote no.
Le gouvernement demande la prolongation des débats au-delà de minuit.— LCP (@LCP) January 3, 2022
Les députés votent contre cette proposition : la séance est donc levée.
> L'examen du texte sera achevé ultérieurement.#Covid #PasseVaccinal #DirectAN pic.twitter.com/SUg2CFUmkh
The dramatic move to suspend debate was celebrated by the opposition, though it is just a momentary setback, as the bill is backed by the government, which has a majority in parliament.
National Rally leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen tweeted the move as a “victory for democracy”, to keep debate over the vaccine pass from being discussed overnight, “far from the view” of the public.
France Unbowed leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is also running for president, said that the move puts health minister Olivier Veran, who has argued in favour of the bill, in his place.
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The mainstream right Les Republicains has publicly supported the bill, though several MPs voted with the opposition to stop debate on Monday night.
The president of the Republicains group in parliament, Damien Abad, called the suspension is a “humiliation” for the government’s party, which found itself in the minority in the chamber.
LaRem has come under fire for not taking the debates seriously, and it is not the first time that the party has found itself short on votes on Covid legislation.
The president of the parliamentary group, Christophe Castaner, called on lawmakers to “stay present and mobilised all week”.
Staying on course?
The heads of the various parliamentary groups must now set a new date for debates to resume, said National Assembly Vice-president Annie Genevard.
Once the legislation is passed, it needs to be voted on by the senate before becoming law.
Government officials have vowed to implement the legislation by its planned date of 15 January
Calling the suspension a cynical “act of politics”, junior minister for European affairs, Clement Beaune told LCI television that lawmakers could be called to debate over the weekend.
“We need to move fast," he said.
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