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President Macron faces party rebellion over France immigration bill

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French President Emmanuel Macron was facing a major rebellion within his own party from left-leaning deputies on Tuesday after a toughened-up immigration bill won the support of the far right under Marine Le Pen.

France's President Emmanuel Macron(via REUTERS)
France’s President Emmanuel Macron(via REUTERS)

Macron swept to power in 2017 heading a broad centrist movement that rallied together the left and the right, but that fragile unity now risks cracking over the immigration bill.

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The government regards the legislation — which generally tightens immigration rules — as crucial to seizing the initiative on the issue of immigration from the far right.

But various amendments have seen the measures further tightened from when the bill was originally submitted, with the left accusing the government of caving in to pressure from the far right.

Le Pen endorsed the new-look bill but key left-leaning members of Macron’s Renaissance Party and allied factions indicated they could no longer support it, with several ministers reportedly threatening to resign.

“We can rejoice in ideological progress, an ideological victory even for the National Rally (RN), since this is now enshrined into law as a national priority,” said Le Pen, a three-time presidential candidate who now leads the RN’s lawmakers in parliament and is widely expected to stand again for president in 2027.

The RN had previously said it would vote against the bill or abstain.

Her announcement came after a commission of upper-house senators and lower-house National Assembly MPs agreed a new draft of the bill, which had been voted down without being debated in the National Assembly last week in a major blow to Macron.

‘Moment of dishonour’

The legislation is now to be put to successive votes Tuesday evening in the Senate and then the National Assembly.

As well as the RN and Macron’s centrist coalition of MPs led by his Renaissance party, the bill will also be supported by the right-wing Republicans.

But while on paper the government has the numbers for the legislation to be passed, there are growing concerns within Macron’s camp that a rebellion could see the government defeated.

Prominent left-leaning Renaissance MP Sacha Houlie said he would vote against the legislation and called on others to follow, with some sources saying that around 30 pro-Macron MPs could do so.

In a sign of the seriousness of the situation, Macron called a meeting of his ruling party at the Elysee palace ahead of the vote, party sources told AFP.

The centrist Liot faction, which is not part of Macron’s movement but often supports it, asked the government to withdraw the text “as we are facing a grave political crisis”, said its head Bertrand Pancher.

Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau, Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau and Housing Minister Patrice Vergriete were meeting Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and warned they could resign, sources told AFP.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, an ambitious 41-year-old who has spearheaded the legislation, had warned Sunday that Le Pen risked winning the 2027 presidential election if the bill were not passed.

The left and hard-left have reacted with horror to the prospect of the legislation being passed, with the head of Socialist lawmakers in the National Assembly, Boris Vallaud, calling it a “great moment of dishonour for the government”.

Passing the legislation is critical for Macron, who cannot stand again in 2027 after two consecutive terms and risks being seen as a lame duck with more than three years left of his term.

The government does not have a majority in parliament following legislative elections that followed his re-election in 2022.

‘Moment of truth’

“The political crisis around the immigration bill is a moment of truth where all the fragilities of Emmanuel Macron’s mandate are coming together,” the Le Monde daily said in an editorial.

Dozens of NGOS slammed what they described as potentially the “most regressive” immigration law in decades.

It is “the most regressive bill of the past 40 years for the rights and living conditions of foreigners, including those who have long been in France,” around 50 groups including the French Human Rights League said in a joint statement.

A key element is now that social security benefits for foreigners be conditional on five years of presence in France, or 30 months for those who have jobs.

Migration quotas can also now be agreed and there are also measures for dual-national convicts being stripped of French nationality.

“With this text directly inspired by RN pamphlets against immigration, we are facing a shift in the history of the republic and its fundamental values,” French Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel said.

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