Hard-left MP to take charge of French parliament’s powerful finance committee
Hard-left MP Eric Coquerel was elected chair of the French parliament’s powerful finance committee on Thursday, a day after the far-right obtained two assembly vice-presidencies – signs of the growing power of radical parties in the new parliament.
President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party lost control of parliament in elections this month, which complicates planned reforms as he will need to share some of the power – and policy oversight – with other parties.
Coquerel, 63, is a veteran politician and one of the most senior members of firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon’s La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party.
The finance committee he will now chair has extensive powers, and this was the most-watched vote as the new, very fragmented lower house of parliament sets to work.
The committee has a key role in the adoption of the French budget in parliament and in overseeing how the state spends public money, with the possibility of doing impromptu checks in ministries.
Its president can also get access to the confidential tax declarations of companies or individuals but can’t publish them.
The committee’s powers go beyond the budget bill, as it can strike down draft amendments on any legislation if it considers that it will unnecessarily weigh on public finances, giving its president a key role on a wide range of policies.
Ahead of his election, after two rounds of votes where no one secured an outright majority, opponents to the right and far-right accused La France Insoumise and Coquerel of not being fit for the job – comments that highlight the tensions in the assembly.
“I can’t imagine using the presidency of the finance committee to organize a tax witch hunt!” Coquerel tweeted ahead of his election, brushing off the accusations.
“We are not going to use it to target political opponents,” he told Sud Radio, while adding that he will use it to track down tax evasion by big companies.
Macron’s Ensemble alliance, which is the biggest party in parliament even if it lacks an absolute majority, won the leadership of other key committees, but the finance one traditionally goes to an opposition party.