By James Murphy
French President Emmanuel Macron has lost his first major parliamentary battle since his reelection. On Tuesday, the French National Assembly voted down a proposal that would have given the government the power to demand that visitors to France show proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test for the virus upon entering the nation. France’s parliament also voted down a measure to mandate that children carry such a passport.
Macron was reelected as president in April, but his ruling party, “La République En Marche!,” lost the majority in the National Assembly in the June parliamentary elections.
The vote on the proposal to demand French visitors show proof of a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test was 195-219.
The defeat of the mandate “was met with wild cheering and a standing ovation from opposition lawmakers,” reported the Telegraph.
🇫🇷 Yesterday the French National Assembly prevented the reintroduction of the vaccine passport for minors, international, & domestic travel after an amendment was put in by @dupontaignan. A major defeat for despot @Macron and a major win for the people!
— Eva Vlaardingerbroek (@EvaVlaar) July 13, 2022
All of the major opposition parties in France — including the right-wing National Rally (RN), the left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI), and the center-right Republican Party (LR) — united to defeat the mandate.
It was the first true test of Macron’s power since winning another five-year-term — a test Macron and his new minority government failed.
“The article of #PJLCovid reinstating the health pass at the borders but also between Corsica / Overseas and France has been rejected. We will fight tirelessly to protect the freedoms of the French people,” tweeted Assembly member Thomas Ménagé of National Rally.
Macron no longer has the power to issue edicts and expect the National Assembly to simply rubber-stamp his wishes.
“The circumstances oblige the government to listen to opposition parties which at the moment it has a few difficulties in doing,” said Republican Olivier Marleix.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne blasted the outcome and blamed what she called “extremes” on the Left and the Right for the mandate’s defeat.
“The situation is serious. By joining together to vote against the measures to protect the French against Covid, LFI, LR and RN prevent any border control against the virus. After the disbelief on this vote, I will fight so that the spirit of responsibility wins in the Senate,” Borne tweeted.
Ménagé suspected that Borne was simply lamenting the loss of the ability to track people in France.
“@Elisabeth_Borne is very embarrassed: this text gave it all the power to attack the freedom of movement of French people even within the national territory. They gave us a clear mandate to oppose this type of draconian measures: we respect it,” Ménagé tweeted.
The new government also failed in its bid to keep in place vaccine passports for children. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally, who lost to Macron in the presidential election, tweeted: “First victory of the Deputies @RN_official! The health pass will no longer concern minors. We don’t give up to defend you,” Le Pen tweeted.
Despite the defeat on vaccine passports for visitors and children, a wider Covid-19 package intended to guard against a “seventh wave” of infections did pass the assembly.
The Macron government first initiated the vaccine-passport system in late 2020 after saying that vaccination “will not be compulsory.” French Minister of Health Olivier Véran later revealed that the passport “is a disguised form of vaccination obligation, but it’s more effective.”
France ended most vaccine passports in March of this year, but Macron’s government was attempting to reinstate some Covid-19 protocols so that France was more in line with the rest of the European Union.
Macron may have won a second term as the president of France, but the defeat of his continuing draconian Covid-19 measures signals that his second-term agenda may face tougher opposition than during his first term.