France's parliament approves bill to clean up politics

French President Emmanuel Macron visits a recreational centre for children in Moisson, France August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s National Assembly on Wednesday adopted a bill meant to help clean up national politics after hard-fought debates over a clause scrapping lawmakers’ constituency funds, which critics say encourage clientelism.

The bill is the second of two on public ethics - a key theme for President Emmanuel Macron during the election campaign, which was dominated for months by allegations of financial impropriety against his conservative rival Francois Fillon, who denied any wrongdoing.

Parliament’s lower house, which has the final word on the matter, voted in favor of the bill by 412 votes to 74.

Lawmakers from Fillon’s party, The Republicans, voted against the text, while Socialist legislators from France Unbowed and the Communist Party abstained. Macron’s Republic on the Move holds a big majority in the chamber.

The Republican-dominated Senate last month refused to adopt the bill because of the proposal to abolish constituency funds, which the center-right party says helps “anchor” lawmakers in their constituencies.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said the funds encouraged patronage.

The first of the public ethics bills was adopted by parliament last week.

The two bills together prohibit ministers, national lawmakers and locally elected officials from employing family members, prevent individuals with criminal records from seeking elected office, and refuse parliamentarians the right to hold advisory roles during their mandates.

Wednesday’s vote came a day after a former justice minister was forced to renounce his week-old nomination to the Constitutional Court after prosecutors opened an investigation into allegations he paid his daughter with public funds for fake work.

Reporting by Emile Picy; writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Gareth Jones