A “physical altercation” erupted in the French Parliament between members of the far-left and other parties during a debate on France’s new immigration law.
Ugo Bernalicis, an MP, or Deputy, with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise Party (LFI), triggered the “grave” disruption on the evening of November 30, leading to some to call for his suspension from Parliament.
The incident comes amid long-running tensions between President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Government and both the left- and right-wing opposition, especially over the issue of immigration.
That has resulted in what is the most unruly year yet in Parliament, with a record number of Deputies being hit with sanctions for bad behaviour.
Regardez, très sérieux incident de séance hier soir en Commission des Lois où le député LFI Ugo Bernalicis perd ses petits nerfs : LFI, la France à interner !pic.twitter.com/l5ynJpeikx
— Gilbert Collard (@GilbertCollard) December 1, 2023
The latest outbreak was described to French newspaper Le Figaro as turning into a “physical altercation” by one unnamed Deputy. Another from the Government coalition called it an “all-round brawl”.
Trouble began when Bernalicis stormed into a room where the Parliament’s legal committee was discussing the immigration law.
He demanded that the committee be suspended so the LFI Deputies present could join a special party session being held at the same time by LFI.
When the committee President Sacha Houlié refused, Bernalicis is said to have become infuriated. Standing in the middle of the room, he launched verbal attacks on Houlié and fellow Deputies.
“You suspend this law committee! … You’ll need physical force if you want to kick me out! I will stay here until it is suspended,” yelled Bernalicis.
As tensions escalated, he directed his fury towards Deputy Estelle Youssouffa, reportedly threatening her and creating an atmosphere described by witnesses as “disrespectful, inappropriate, and even violent”.
It is said Bernalicis’ behaviour left fellow LFI Deputies embarrased.
Things came to a head when he physically obstructed Deputy Liot Christophe Naegelen from presenting an amendment. The confrontation reportedly escalated into a “very clear physical altercation”, causing an usher to intervene to try to control the situation.
“Cardboard revolutionary!” shouted one Deputy from Marine Le Pen’s national-populist Rassemblement National party.
Following the chaos, Houlié said he would seek sanctions against Bernalicis for what he called the “serious disturbances”.
Deputies present have described incident as “another star performance from LFI”.
The French Parliament has dished out a record number of disciplinary penalties to unruly MPs and party deputies this year. https://t.co/RSZ8vcwW2O
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 25, 2023
Macron’s minority Government has been struggling to pass any legislation against opposition from the Left and Right.
Most recently, this became apparent with the budget, which the Government could only pass by resorting to French Constitution’s article 49.3, which allows it to implement laws without the National Assembly’s approval.
The proposed legislation on immigration has been a particular cause of unrest.
It seeks to streamline and simplify the nation’s system for naturalising legal migrants and deporting illegal migrants and failed asylum seekers.
Divisions are emerging over one particular clause that seeks to give residency to those illegal immigrants working in what are deemed vital sectors that are understaffed.
The Right opposes the inclusion of this clause, while the Left is against its removal.