Macron's government wins no-confidence vote over bodyguard scandal

Macron's government wins no-confidence vote over bodyguard scandal
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PARIS (Reuters) - The French government on Tuesday firmly defeated the first of two no-confidence motions put forward by opposition lawmakers over its handling of a scandal involving Emmanuel Macron's bodyguard, confirming the president's solid majority.

The motion backed by the conservative opposition party won 143 votes, falling short of the 289 necessary to topple the government, capping a tumultuous two weeks in French politics after a video showing the bodyguard beating protesters triggered the most serious crisis of Macron's tenure.

A second vote on the leftwing opposition's own motion is expected later on Tuesday, but has virtually no chance of succeeding. Macron's Republic On The Move party controls an outright majority in the lower house National Assembly.

Despite the parliamentary victory, what has become known as the "Benalla affair", after bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, has left an impact on Macron's presidency, denting his popularity and throwing parts of his agenda off schedule.

The 40-year-old president was criticised for firing the aide only after the video showing him assaulting a May Day protester while wearing police gear was revealed by the press, undermining his claim of building an "exemplary Republic".

As well as forcing his government to postpone a constitutional reform, the affair has pushed Macron down in the polls, with his popularity now at barely 36 percent, according to one recent survey. It has also emboldened a fragmented opposition, which had been floundering since Macron's landslide victory last year.

The scandal has also raised questions about Macron's highly centralised governing style and the wide powers conferred on the president under France's Fifth Republic.

"This scandal reveals above all the abuses of a hyper-presidential regime," veteran Communist lawmaker Andre Chassaigne told MPs before the no-confidence vote.

"This is not just a summer affair, it shows the ultra concentration of powers by an elected monarch which undermines the very principle of separation of powers," he said.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Luke Baker)

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