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Emmanuel Macron’s LaREM majority in the National Assembly decided to dissolve an inquiry committee on the President’s management of the COVID-19 crisis. The committee, made up of majority and opposition MPs, was created during the first wave of the coronavirus in order to monitor the government’s handling of the pandemic.
It subsequently acquired investigative powers, notably enabling it to hear members of the government.
On Wednesday, a LaREM majority vote declared the dissolution of the committee.
A surprising decision as a third lockdown is currently under consideration.
The move sparked the furious reaction of opposition leaders across all sides of the French political spectrum.
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The president of the LFI group in the National Assembly, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, denounced an act deemed “scandalous” while believing that “Macron and his ministers are afraid to publicly take responsibility for their risky policy” on the COVID-19 management.
He tweeted: “Scandalous: En Marche dissolves the National Assembly’s commission of inquiry into the government’s handling of the health crisis against the advice of all the opposition.
“Macron and his ministers are afraid to publicly take responsibility for their risky policy.”
Olivier Faure, Socialist Party MP, said: “The parliamentary committee to monitor the Covid crisis is arbitrarily dissolved, depriving Parliament of its power of control. It is a democratic betrayal.”
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Echoing their comments, MEP Manon Aubry, La France Insoumise, added: “Democracy according to Macron.
“It’s ok for a parliamentary mission to be created if it praises its wonderful handling of the health crisis.
“On the other hand, if it emits the slightest criticism, it is dissolved.”
Members of the French Parliament saw the termination of the committee as a way of preventing government control of the management of the epidemic.
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Eric Ciotti, who was rapporteur of the committee until December 2, criticised “the servile attitude” to the executive which he said sought to “remove any kind of control over the health crisis.”
Eric Ciotti declared that “according to rumours, the President of the Republic and the government no longer support the opinions and declarations of the Scientific Council or the High Authority of Health.”
The fact-finding committee was supposed to “make it possible to make progress reports, especially on the vaccination campaign,” said Damien Abad. Now unopposed, the executive could impose its restrictions after the National Assembly extended the state of health emergency.
Attacked from all sides, the presidential majority decided to defend itself.
The former Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, who is now the leader of the LaREM deputies in the Lower House, denounced the “usual movie drama” of the opposition: “Committees of inquiry are temporary, it is parliamentary life.”
And according to LaREM deputy Julien Borowczyk, “the standing committees will of course allow the control of government action.”
The opposition would have another way to keep controlling government action.
According to Le Parisien, MPs can demand the opening of a new parliamentary inquiry.
France reported nearly 27,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, its biggest one-day jump since mid-November when France was in its second full lockdown, indicating current curfew measures are not containing the virus.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said tighter curbs are under consideration.
A curfew runs from 6pm until 6am every night but President Macron is under pressure to impose a third national lockdown since the crisis began almost a year ago as data shows another increase in hospitalisations and deaths.
“The data shows that at this time the curfew is not putting enough of a brake on the spread of the virus,” Attal told a news conference after Macron chaired a cabinet meeting.
Scenarios being discussed range from a very strict lockdown to maintaining the status quo, Attal said.
Macron is likely to wait until Saturday, two weeks after the curfew was lengthened, before deciding on the next step and is concerned that more curbs on public freedoms may trigger acts of civil disobedience, a government official said.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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