Members of Parliament of left-wing coalition NUPES protest the forcing-through of the pension law without a parliament vote on March 16, 2023. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)


Unruly French MPs hit with record year of parliamentary penalties


The French Parliament has dished out a record number of disciplinary penalties to unruly MPs and party deputies this year.

Over the course of the ongoing French Fifth Republic, 135 penalties have been given to MPs or deputies.

Of those, 109 have been handed out since French President Emmanuel Macron took office in 2017. More than half of all penalties were imposed in the past year alone.

The punishments, or “disciplinary sanctions”, range from simple verbal reprimands that are entered into the written records, to a two-month suspension and a halving of MP salaries.

Escalating political tensions have been a major driver behind the increase in penalties, observers say; the majority of this year’s sanctions were related to the contentious debates on retirement reform.

Deputies from the La France Insoumise (LFI) party have in particular been subject to the sanctions. Many are serving their first term in France’s National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.

Earlier this year, the Assembly slapped the harsh penalties of a two-month suspension on two deputies from (LFI). Thomas Portes was punished for a tweet depicting him standing on a football printed with the image of the French labour minister Olivier Dussopt while wearing a tricolour sash.

Such disciplinary action had only been taken once before in the entire history of the Fifth Republic, back in 2011.

Another example was LFI deputy Matthias Tavel, who received a slap on the wrist for shouting: “You up there! Shut up!” at a deputy from Marine Le Pen’s national-populist Rassemblement National party. Her party has received relatively few penalties.

Political expert Olivier Rozenberg told Le Monde that “the explosion of sanctions … is partly due to the increase in verbal tensions”, which is a result of the “record number” of newly elected and less experienced MPs, as well as “the refusal of some to play by the … rules”.

Another parliamentary historian posited that the increase was the result of political polarisation. Jean Garrigues said much of that has taken the form of “role-playing” between the left-wing opposition and Macron’s centrist supporters.

While the first group tries to “show the public, through this conflict, that they make-up the sole opposition”, the government’s supporters aim to “exclude them”, Garrigues said.

Others argue that the government parties are simply overly keen on dishing out penalties.

As the number of sanctions increases, so does the debate surrounding their implementation. Some political observers now question if the penalties unfairly target certain deputies based on their political affiliations.