Trouble in the Ranks

Through a combination of procedural clumsiness, personal ambition and institutional pride, the parliamentary majority of French President Nicolas Sarkozy has mounted something of a protest over the past few days. At issue is both the relationship of the government to its majority, and the functioning of the UMP party. Parliament members complain of inaccessible ministers and the imposition of unpopular legislation without deputies’ input. One prominent UMP figure attacked the party’s “Brezhnevian” direction. (French-language links.)

So far, the legislative victims of the parliamentary rebellion have been a law on OGM’s and a constitutional amendment that would have bypassed popular referenda for certain treaties. The first was killed through a surprise procedural maneuver by the opposition that a more disciplined majority could have easily turned back. The second was voted down in committee, with the votes of several UMP legislators. Both measures are recoverable through parliamentary procedure. But with President Sarkozy politically weakened, and the unions showing their strength (in the form of 50,000 school teachers and public sector workers marching in the streets), it’s hardly the kind of news that augurs well for his second wave of reform packages.