France's new lawmakers open first parliament session
PARIS (AP) -- France's newly elected lawmakers, most of them from President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party, took part in their first parliamentary session Tuesday.
Macron's 14-month-old party, Republic on the Move!, won 308 of the 577 seats at France's lower house of parliament in legislative elections earlier this month. His allies in Modem took 42 seats, giving the government a wide majority.
During the opening session, lawmakers elected the National Assembly president, a key post that organizes legislative business and debates. Francois de Rugy, a former Green who joined Macron's party earlier this year, got the job.
Rugy called on lawmakers to reform the house to make it "more democratic," ''more efficient" and "modern" to restore the confidence of the French people in the institution.
"In this house, with new faces and a new political landscape, the truth won't be on one side or the other. It will come out of the debate and the desire to act for the French people," he said.
Rugy also stressed the need for making changes to lawmakers' status, often seen as privileged, through new rules regarding their expenses, retirement benefits or judicial immunity -in line with one of Macron's most emblematic campaign promises.
"This legislature will have to achieve equality between citizens and lawmakers," he said in speech loudly applauded by the majority.
Three-quarters of the lawmakers are new to the National Assembly and 38 percent are women -the highest proportion in France's modern history.
Some previously had local political experience, but many are newcomers to politics.
The lawmakers' average age is down from 55 in the previous term to 49 now. The youngest is 23, the oldest 79.
Elected under Macron's banner, 30-year-old lawmaker Aurore Berge told reporters that she's "not worried" about learning the house's complex rules and procedures.
"Actually there are lawmakers who know more because they are here for 20 or 30 years. But did they manage to make reforms in the country ... I'm not sure about that," she said.
Some lawmakers are high-profile politicians who intend to use their seats at the National Assembly to voice their opposition to Macron's government, including two former presidential candidates, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and ultra-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Le Pen's National Front party won eight seats, including hers, up from two in the outgoing Assembly.
Melenchon's party took 17 seats. His far-left male colleagues entered the assembly on Tuesday without wearing a tie, which is a tradition in the house.
"We want to keep repeating our opposition to the government's method and politics," Melenchon said.
Lawmakers expect to get to work quickly tackling the government's proposed law on expanding police powers and a labor reform making it easier to hire and fire.
The conservative Republicans and their center-right allies are deeply divided over their political strategy: 94 lawmakers claim they are the main opposition to Macron's majority, while about 40 others describing themselves as "constructive" say they are ready to vote for government legislation which they consider going in the right direction.
The Socialist Party, which dominated the outgoing assembly, won only 30 seats.