Search France Today

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

François Hollande suspends family law reform - an electoral strategy or a U-turn?

The French president, François Hollande, has decided to put on the back burner  (for the moment but also maybe the forseeable future) plans to introduce reforms to the family law which, among other things, would have given female same-sex couples access to procréation médicalement assistée ("medically assisted procreation", PMA)  and in vitro fertilisation as well as changing the law on surrogate mothers.

But why the apparent back pedalling?

After all, this was a man who - half-heartedly perhaps - had included his support for the reform (to PMA) in his presidential election campaign in 2012.

First up, of course, those half a million (according to organisers) or 100,000 (if you believe the police) reactionaries of "La Manif pour tous" who took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to "uphold traditional family values" (what???) and who are now congratulating themselves for having persuaded Hollande to change his mind.

Screenshot from YouTube video of "La Manif pour tous" demonstration, Paris February 2, 2014

Screenshot from YouTube video of "La Manif pour tous" demonstration, Paris February 2, 2014

"It's a victory," said Ludovine de la Rochère, the president of "La Manif pour tous".

"It's a victory because what was outlined in the bill clearly wasn't in keeping with what is in the best interests of the child and the family," she continued.

"I'm delighted the government has decided not to try to introduce the reforms. It has obviously realised that those who demonstrated on Sunday were respectable people."

That's one way of looking at the decision, although Rochère seemed to forget that the reform also dealt with the status of step parents (presumably not an acceptable part of her "traditional family values"), the right of adopted children to know the names of their birth parents and making single-parent adoption easier.

Ludovine de la Rochère (screenshot from YouTube video of "La Manif pour tous" demonstration, Paris February 2, 2014)

The other main reason is provided by the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) who clearly believe Hollande is playing a political game ahead of the local elections in March.

"The strategy is to say that every potential controversial law will be put on the backburner until after the local elections," said the president of the UMP, Jean-François Copé.

"It's very serious. It's a way of lying to the French and it's completely outrageous."

Dominique Bertinotti (screenshot BFM TV interview)

Probably the reason for Hollande's decision - badly timed though it might be - lies somewhere between the two with, as usual, his inability to show some cajones when it counts.

Hollande certainly didn't and doesn't want to encourage the mobilisation of opposition in the run-up to the local elections.

But his last-minute change of heart also threatens to throw his own party into some disarray.

He doesn't want to give his opponents political ammunition and these sort of social reforms - no matter how much they might be needed - are highly contested and divisive.

Equally striking perhaps was the way in which the decision was taken.

Hollande, in his usual style, ummed and ahed and in the process allowed an opposition - albeit apparently apolitical - to seize the agenda and later claim its victory.

And it contradicts not only the idea that this government is one truly committed to social reform but also counters positions it had previously held.

Just a year ago, the minister for family, Dominique Bertinotti, who had been charged with responsibility for drafting propositions, assured parliament that PMA would be "addressed in the context of the family bill" and that it was "a strong commitment from a government that has a clear position on this issue."

She also had the backing (at the time) of the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who said that, "PMA deserved a (parliamentary) debate and would be included in the bill."

So it has been left up to the government's spokesperson, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, to put the usual spin on what is surely another failure of Hollande to show he has any courage in his (lack of) convictions.

Vallaud-Belkacem insisted that the bill had not been shelved as a reaction to recent "events" but rather because "it simply wasn't ready to be presented to parliament."

But at the same time she outlined that the government's priorities lay elsewhere, namely to fight unemployment (Hollande has already failed to live up to his promise to stop the monthly rise by the end of 2013) and the so-called "Responsibility Pact", giving companies tax breaks to take on new employees.

And Bertinotti? Good trooper that she is, she's remaining silent...for the moment.

But what's the betting she's one of the ministers looking for a new job when Hollande eventually gets around to reshuffling his government.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blog Archive

Check out these sites


All photos (unless otherwise stated) and text are copyright. No part of this website or any part of the content, copy and images may be reproduced or re-distributed in any format without prior approval. All you need to do is get in touch. Thank you.