France gets power to impeach president

AFP, Wednesday 19 Nov 2014

French lawmakers now have the power to launch a US-style impeachment of their president under a new law passed on Wednesday.

Heads of state in France have until now enjoyed some of the strongest legal protections in the West -- only removable in cases of high treason.

But the law approved by the Constitutional Council on Wednesday sets out a procedure for removing the president from office in cases where there has been a "breach of their duties that is clearly incompatible with the exercise of their mandate".

The impeachment process first requires 10 percent of upper house senators and 10 percent of lower house deputies to sign a resolution.

A two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament must then vote to convene a special session of select lawmakers known as the High Court.

The court would have a month to decide the issue, with another two-thirds majority required.

It has taken 12 years to get the reform passed since it was first announced by then-president Jacques Chirac in 2002.

It only came before deputies in the lower house in January 2012 at the end of Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency and was passed by senators last month.

Although the president can be impeached, heads of state are still protected from criminal prosecution during their five-year terms in office.

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