France’s Congress amended the country’s constitution to allow the upper and lower houses of Parliament to remove the president from office for “breach of duty.”
Under the new rule, adopted by Parliament members gathered in Versailles today, two-thirds of the members of both houses would have to agree to set up a court to examine any “breach of duty” by the head of state that was “clearly incompatible” with continuing as president.
The measure, a plank from President Jacques Chirac’s 2002 campaign, replaces a court made of 24 members of parliament that was only qualified to examine the president’s behavior in cases of suspected high treason.
Of the 869 lawmakers that took part in the vote today, 449 voted in favor of the constitutional change, and 203 voted against it.French heads of state will remain immune from all judicial investigation and prosecution during their mandate unless deposed.
Magistrates probing suspected financial irregularities at Paris City Hall have sought to question Chirac, 74, who was mayor of the French capital for 18 years until 1995. In 1999, France’s top constitutional court ruled that an incumbent president can only be held to account by the High Court of Justice.Chirac’s second term ends in May. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is the favorite in the polls to succeed him.