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French Government Survives Confidence Vote

  • Lisa Bryant

French President Francois Hollande gestures during joint news conference with Iraqi counterpart Fouad Massoum, Baghdad, Sept. 12, 2014.

French President Francois Hollande gestures during joint news conference with Iraqi counterpart Fouad Massoum, Baghdad, Sept. 12, 2014.

By the end of the vote, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls got the results he had hoped for: 269 in favor of his government compared to 244 votes against.

But the embattled Socialist government of French President Francois Hollande has lost its absolute majority in parliament, with some of its dissident lawmakers abstaining from casting their ballots.

But by squeaking through today's parliamentary confidence vote, the party has overcome a political and economic crisis — for now.

Addressing the lawmakers minutes after the results were announced, Valls vowed to continue a path of proposed economic reforms through the rest of the government's five-year term.

But the problems facing Valls, and Hollande, are far from over. The country is battling a stagnant economy and record unemployment, and Hollande is the most unpopular leader in modern times with a 13 percent approval rating.

Even French nationals who voted Hollande into office, such as 61-year-old Zulika Ben Brahim, who says the government must address high unemployment among youth and help older people like herself, are rooting for change.

The National Assembly head of the main opposition UMP party, Christian Jacob, says the days are numbered for Prime Minister Valls, as he vowed to battle the government at every turn. Only on one issue are French politicians united, he said: the battle against militant Islam.

The vote comes a day after President Hollande hosted an international conference on Iraq, in which nations pledged to step up the fight against the Islamic State group. Hollande has scored points on his foreign policy, which has included military campaigns to staunch the bloodshed in Mali and Central African Republic, but that is about all.

The president is expected to outline his strategy for the country during a press conference Thursday.

And he faces other key tests this week, starting on Friday when the Moody's rating agency may downgrade its sovereign debt rating for France.

On Sunday, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, one of Holland's political rivals, is expected to announce his return to politics.

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