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France’s Macron survives no-confidence votes amid scandal

July 31, 2018
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe delivers his speech during a no confidence session at the National Assembly, Tuesday, July 31, 2018 in Paris. The French government faces two votes of no confidence brought by opposition parties in response to the scandal over a security aide close to French President Emmanuel Macron who is alleged to have beaten up a protester during a May Day protest. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron’s government survived two votes of no confidence Tuesday in the wake of a political and public uproar triggered by a video of his chief bodyguard beating a protester.

The government easily won the largely symbolic votes in France’s lower house of parliament. Macron’s centrist party has a large majority in the National Assembly.

The motions, which needed 289 votes to pass, were brought by the conservative Republicans party and opposition lawmakers from the left and far-left. The first received 143 votes, while the second got 74.

Macron’s government has been under fire since France’s Le Monde newspaper identified the now-former security aide, Alexandre Benalla, as the person captured on camera wearing a police helmet and striking a young man at a May Day protest.

Subsequent revelations about the government’s handling of the violence, including the two-week suspension Benalla received in May, have turned the affair into the biggest crisis of Macron’s nearly 15-month-old presidency.

Criticism also has focused on why officials in the president’s office did not immediately disclose what happened, terminate Benalla and refer the matter for investigation.

After Le Monde made the beating public and investigation was opened, Benalla, 26, was handed preliminary charges that included committing violence in a group, interfering in the exercise of a public function and the unauthorized public display of official insignia.

The leader of the Republicans in the National Assembly, Christian Jacob, told lawmakers the scandal stemming from the ex-aide was not “an affair for the left or the right.”

“This is a question of transparency, honor, integrity,” Jacob said before Tuesday’s votes. “That is why, in the name of the Republicans, I am asking you to sanction this government.”

Andre Chassaigne, who leads the French Communist Party’s representatives in the lower house, accused the government of lying and said Macron bore responsibility for the crisis.

Under the French Constitution, the prime minister, not the president, is accountable to parliament. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe acknowledged Tuesday that the Benalla episode involved “inacceptable acts” and “individual misconducts.”

“To all those that wish to repair this country with us and live up to the formidable promise that constitutes the election of the president of the republic in 2017, we won’t slow down, we won’t give up anything, we will go to the end of our project,” Philippe said.

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