French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday promised a “profound transformation” of his country’s politics, proposing to slash by a third the number of MPs, and telling lawmakers he would call a referendum if they do not agree.
In his first address to members of the National Assembly and Senate delivered in Versailles palace, the gilded former seat of French kings, Macron said he would move fast to restore France’s “conquering spirit”.
“Until now, we were too often on the wrong track,” said the 39-year-old leader, who won office on a promise of political renewal.
“We preferred procedures to results, rules to initiative, a society where you live off inherited wealth, to a just society.”
He confirmed campaign plans to reform France’s parliament.
These plans include shrinking the number of seats in both houses of parliament — there are 577 in the lower house National Assembly and 348 in the Senate — by a third and introducing a degree of proportional representation in the electoral system.
The centrist ex-banker said he hoped to pass legislation enshrining the changes within a year but reserved the right to organise a referendum “if necessary”.
The president’s solemn, 1.5-hour-long speech contained few announcements.
It was his first major address in France since his inauguration in mid-May, when he promised a French “renaissance”.
In parliamentary elections held afterwards his year-old party won a resounding majority, scooping up votes from the traditional right and left.
Macron warned the new MPs any triumphalism faced with the “gravity of the circumstances” in France, which is battling unemployment of 9.4 percent, and in Europe which he said had “lost its way”.
“The past decade has been cruel for Europe. We have managed crises but we have lost our way,” he said, adding that France and Germany would launch a series of debates across the EU before the year’s end to discuss the bloc’s future.
On the security front, he confirmed plans to lift the state of emergency in place since the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris.
Macron said the emergency measures, which he wants to replace with a tough new anti-terror law, would be lifted “in the autumn.”