Heavenly Path News Team
"New French government suffers first defeat as lawmakers vote down part of Covid bill"
France's government has suffered its first defeat in parliament after President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party lost its majority in elections last month. .
After an late night debate, opposition lawmakers rejected a proposal to give the government powers to reinstate a Covid health pass at the borders.
The National Assembly debate on the health bill aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic began on Monday and lasted well into Tuesday night.
Ruling party MPs spoke of "an atmosphere like a football match" where speakers were routinely shouted down.
The first article of the bill passed the assembly with 221 votes in favour and 187 against. This allows the government to continue to collect health data on screening tests (SI-DEP device) and vaccinations until 31 January, instead of the 31 March planned in the original version.
Two other remaining articles, on the modalities of a parliamentary follow-up, have been merged into one.
However, opposition deputies of the far-right National Rally (RN), of the right-wing Republicans (LR) and of the left alliance NUPES led by far-left France Unbowed (LFI) went on to reject the second article on border controls, one of the key parts of the bill.
Fight to the Senate
With 219 votes to 195, MPs refused the government the possibility to demand travellers show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test when entering or leaving France after 1 August when the current state of emergency expires.
A provision allowing the pass to be required for underage travelers had earlier been rejected.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne condemned the obstruction and allies sought to stress how the so-called "extremes" - the far-right and hard-left - had teamed up together.
"The hour is serious," Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Twitter.
"By coming together to vote against the measures protection of the French against Covid, LFI, the LR and the RN prevent any border control in the face of the virus. Past disbelief on this vote, I will fight so that the spirit of responsibility prevails in the Senate."
Health security bill to be reviewed by MPs as France tackles seventh Covid wave
France's new Minister of Health, François Braun, said it was a shame that "an alliance of circumstances" led lawmakers to reject one of the key measures of the text, which for him represented "the choice of collective and individual responsibility".
"I will continue to fight, to convince, from this afternoon in the Senate (...) so that these provisions must be defended, (…) to keep protecting the French people," he declared on RTL radio on Wednesday, referring to the fact that the bill still has to be ratified by the Upper House.
France is currently facing its seventh wave of Covid-19 infections with concerns mounting over how the health system will cope. Braun has launched a "flash mission" to help health centres better deal with the influx of emergencies over the summer period.
Opposition groups hail their victory
"The circumstances oblige the government to listen to opposition parties which at the moment it has a few difficulties in doing," top Republicans MP Olivier Marleix told Sud Radio on Wednesday morning.
The most senior MP in the hard-left LFI party, Mathilde Panot, referred to ruling party MPs as "Playmobils" -- an insult comparing them to inanimate toys.
"Parliament has done its job, the opposition has done its job," RN deputy Sébastien Chenu and vice-president of the Assembly told France Info on Wednesday, celebrating what he described as a "spineless" text.
Far-right National Rally surprises itself with record gains in parliament
"We have reinstated our freedom", he went on, adding that "the government cannot do everything with a bulldozer like it's been doing for the past five years".
He also indicated that this victory could pave the way for health workers who refused vaccination to be reintegrated back into their jobs.
In any case, the vote highlighted the political difficulties to which President Emmanuel Macron will face during his second term after losing the absolute majority in the National Assembly during the legislative elections of last month.
Analysts say he will need to rely on the right-wing Republicans party whose 62 MPs will be crucial for passing legislation.