PARIS (Reuters) - France will cut the number of lawmakers by almost a third and introduce a degree of proportional representation for the next legislative elections, in a major move aimed at restoring voters’ confidence in a largely discredited political class.
The measures, broadly in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promises, come after weeks of negotiations between his government and the head of the opposition-controlled Senate, whose support is essential to get the changes through.
Macron’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, said the reforms, if approved by both houses of parliament, will speed up the lawmaking process and give more of a voice to groups currently under-represented in parliament.
“These bills will contribute to a deep renovation of political and parliamentary life, in a spirit of responsibility, representation and efficiency,” Philippe said.
The number of lawmakers - at both the lower house National Assembly and the Senate - will be cut by 30 percent, he said.
An agreement with the conservative-controlled Senate would spare Macron the need to call a referendum to pass the reforms.
“We were able to build together the basis for a possible deal,” Philippe said.
But in a sign parliamentary approval may not be certain, many conservative lawmakers criticised both the reform, which would threaten many of their jobs, and the Senate’s president, Gerard Larcher, who led talks with the government.
“The feeling among MPs is that the Senate put its own interest first and that President Larcher said ‘deal’ a bit too easily,” conservative lawmaker Philippe Gosselin said.
Larcher himself later said in a joint statement with other conservatives the plan will have to be amended in parliament.
Philippe said some 15 percent of lawmakers in the lower house, which has the last word on legislation, will be elected via proportional representation in the 2022 legislative elections, a concession to Macron’s centrist MoDem party ally.
The last time the proportional voting system was used, the far-right National Front won an unprecedented number of seats.
Despite winning 13 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary elections in 2017 under France’s current voting system, the National Front gained only eight seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.
Reporting by Michel Rose, Marine Pennetier and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Leigh Thomas