French President Francois Hollande’s government scraped through a confidence vote in parliament today, with the narrow margin showing its uphill task ahead.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls got 269 votes in the National Assembly for his plan to bolster an economy that has been in the doldrums for the last two years and stem rising unemployment. A total of 244 votes were cast against the government and 53 lawmakers abstained.
The narrowness of the victory is a tell-tale sign of Hollande losing ground in his own party that’s torn over his inability to counter popular discontent, a stalled economy and record joblessness. While it allows Valls to press ahead with his plans, it leaves the government weakened by dissent within the governing party.
The vote was not “about the government’s survival but its fragility,” said Laurent Dubois, a professor of politics at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.
The vote came after Hollande and Valls reshuffled the cabinet to silence a mutiny, booting out Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg and some of his allies who were demanding more fiscal stimulus to lift growth. Other Socialist lawmakers also oppose budget restraints.
The Socialist government’s recent business-friendly pronouncements had drawn the ire of lawmakers within the party, with as many as 40 threatening to not support the plan. A failure to win the vote would have plunged France into legislative elections, ousting the government’s ministers.
The vote now gives the Socialist government room to cut spending and cap taxes. Valls said the confidence vote test was necessary as France’s faces a difficult economic situation, which he said called for exceptional measures.