Europe

French MPs back state of emergency powers in constitution

Police stand by a banner reading "End the state of emergency" during a demonstration on 5 Feb Image copyright AFP
Image caption Human rights groups argue that the emergency powers harm citizens' rights and do little to target terrorism

French MPs have voted to write into the constitution the process of giving the state emergency powers during a security crisis.

However, most of the National Assembly was empty when the measure was approved, by 103 votes to 26.

President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency after the Paris attacks, allowing police to raid homes and hold people under house arrest.

It expires on 26 February but the government wants the powers extended.

Under Article 1 of the constitutional reform proposals, MPs will have to approve a state of emergency beyond 12 days. This rule is already observed, but including it in the constitution is intended to protect it from legal challenges.

MPs also backed an amendment requiring any extension beyond four months to be referred back to them.

The chamber was only a quarter full during the vote. Out of the total of 577 deputies, 441 were absent.

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The MPs also agreed that "throughout the state of emergency, parliament will meet in special session and cannot be dissolved", against the wishes of both the government and the opposition Republicans.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Security has been tightened around potential targets, including the Stade de France
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Centre-right MP Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told MPs that no-one supported the idea of stripping terrorists of citizenship

Monday night's vote is seen as only a first step in the government's proposed legal reforms in response to the 13 November attacks in which 130 people died.

Article 2 of the constitutional reform plan involves stripping convicted terrorists with dual nationality of their French citizenship, a step that has aroused considerable opposition on both the left and right.

Christiane Taubira resigned as justice minister because of the proposal and centre-right MP Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told MPs in the early hours of Tuesday that no-one supported the idea any more.

However, with a show of hands, the house voted through the proposal later on Tuesday. The amendment does not mention dual nationality.