French right divided over vaccine pass amid run-up to presidential elections

The right-wing party firmly backed Pécresse since she was nominated on 4 December. The vaccine pass debacle, however, appears to have set a rift within the party and possibly compromised the candidate's race to the Élysée [CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE]

French MPs have adopted the COVID vaccine pass bill in the National Assembly on Thursday (6 January) amid fierce debates laying bare the internal struggles of the right-wing. Now, only Senate approval remains. EURACTIV France reports.

This week has been a difficult one for several political parties in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche had a hard time pushing through its bill on the “vaccine pass”, which, unlike the current sanitary one, will no longer accept PCR or antigen tests for entry to specific venues and transport. Despite being the majority in parliament, it was outvoted by the opposition, which managed to suspend talks on the bill.

However, things are even more concerning for the right-wing party Les Républicains (LR) and their presidential candidate, Valérie Pécresse.

While she and the leader of the Républicains in the National Assembly, Damien Abad, both confirmed their party would back the bill, 24 of 70 LR politicians present in the assembly voted against, while 22 abstained.

Pécresse’s appointed campaign advisors did not oppose the vaccine pass, yet two “campaign speakers”, Nathalie Bassire and Philippe Gosselin, did.

Of the 70 LR politicians present, 33 opposed the bill’s Article 1, which effectively introduces the vaccine pass – while the following provisions specify the conditions for its implementation.

French opposition suspends vaccine pass debate, delays launch

French opposition MPs have managed to suspend a parliamentary session meant to discuss a bill on the so-called “vaccine pass”, throwing off course President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party’s plans to quickly push it through

Crisis on the right

The right-wing party has firmly backed Pécresse since she was nominated on 4 December. However, the vaccine pass debacle appears to have created a rift within the party and possibly compromised the candidate’s race to the Élysée.

While it could be that double talk from some party members is down to them questioning the legitimacy of their presidential candidate, the incoming legislative elections and debate over the vaccine pass in some French regions could suggest a focus on their local constituencies.

The Senate, in which the LR party has a majority, will examine the bill next week. It is highly likely that the version adopted by the National Assembly will be amended, which will prompt the setting up of a joint committee responsible for reaching a compromise between both chambers.

This means the vaccine pass, which the government initially hoped would be in force by 15 January – will be delayed further.

Senators from the LR camp will be followed carefully both by their party and commentators as they attempt to save face and maintain the appearance of unity.

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[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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