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France

French MPs back constitutional reforms aimed at tackling terror

media The Senate to consider Constitional amendments voted by the National Assembly, 10 February 2016 AFP/ Alain Jocard

Members of France’s National Assembly on Wednesday approved controversial measures to change the country’s constitution following the deadly attacks that struck Paris in November, with senators scheduled to examine the bill next month.

The 317-199 vote in the lower house of Parliament was the first hurdle towards the adoption of the reforms, which have been championed by Prime Minister Manuel Valls but have faced stiff resistance from many members of his own ruling Socialist Party.

The bill, if adopted definitively, would enshrine the enactment of a state of emergency into France’s constitution and allow authorities to strip French nationality from people convicted of terrorism charges.

While a majority of Socialist Party MPs voted in favour of the measure (165), as many as 83 fellow Socialists voted against the bill on Wednesday. An additional 51 abstained.

The package of measures still needs to be debated and voted by the Senate and ultimately requires a three-fifths majority vote from lawmakers of both houses at an extraordinary parliamentary session in Versailles.

All but five of the 33 MPs from France’s Green party and Left Front coalition voted against the measure, which, by leaving a person stateless, could be in conflict with France’s obligations under international law.

A majority of MPs from the main conservative opposition group Les Républicains backed the anti-terror bill, but 74 of them also voted against it.

Valls, reacting to the vote, said he was “satisfied” with the results and “convinced” the bill would eventually get the three-fifths majority it needs to become law.

His government has said the measure would concern a very small number of people but is of high symbolic value.

Human rights groups had warned that the bill risked discriminating against minorities of immigrant background as the initial text targeted dual nationals only.

In response to the criticism, the Socialist government removed the mention of dual nationals and extended the measure to all French citizens.

Another measure in the bill would introduce the principle of the state of emergency into the constitution.

It would apply in the event of a terrorist threat or a natural disaster for a 12-day period that could be extended by a vote of the Parliament, as under current law.

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