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French MPs Back Controversial Terror Measures

French prime minister Manuel Valls, center, leaves the France's National Assembly, in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. French lawmakers voted on a divisive bill aimed at changing the constitution to introduce the possibility of revoking the citizenship of people convicted on terrorism charges in the wake of the Paris attacks.

French lawmakers have approved controversial changes to the constitution the leftist government argues will help France better fight terrorism after last year’s Islamist attacks. The vote Wednesday was just the first hurdle before the legislation becomes law.

After days of emotional debate at the National Assembly, the results were announced swiftly: 317 in favor of the constitutional changes and 199 against.

President Francois Hollande proposed the changes following attacks that killed 130 people last November in Paris.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed confidence the lower house and Senate would approve the final text during a vote later this year at the Palace of Versailles.

But the Senate must still examine and vote on measures that have deeply split both the right and the left. Already the most controversial clause, to strip convicted terrorists of their French citizenship if they are dual citizens, sparked last month’s resignation of Hollande’s justice minister, Christiane Taubira.

FILE - An armed member of the French riot police (CRS) is seen on patrol at Porte de Vincennes in Paris, Jan. 9, 2015.
FILE - An armed member of the French riot police (CRS) is seen on patrol at Porte de Vincennes in Paris, Jan. 9, 2015.

The second proposal aims to write state of emergency provisions into the constitution. Parliament this week extended the current state of emergency, declared after the November attacks, for three months.

Hollande is expected to announce a wider Cabinet reorganization soon. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced his resignation Wednesday to become head of France’s highest judicial body, the Constitutional Council.

Francois Asensi was among many far left lawmakers to vote against the constitutional changes he described as useless and dangerous, a conclusion shared by some conservative deputies.

Rights groups have harshly criticized the proposed constitutional amendments, and slammed what they say are abusive and ineffective police actions under the state of emergency. But the government argues the security crackdown has helped destabilize terrorist networks and thwarted at least one planned attack.

Polls also show most people in France support the constitutional amendments.