France plans to reduce MPs by a third before next election

France is to cut the number of members of parliament by 30% and ensure 15% of lawmakers will be elected via a proportional representation system in the next election, the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, has announced.

The vow to reduce the number of MPs to around 404 from the current 577 – and to reduce the number of senators to 244 from 348 – before the 2022 parliamentary elections is in line with promises by the centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, to bring about a “profound transformation” of the way French government is run.

Macron, who had never run for elected office before the presidency and styled himself as an outsider to the French political class, vowed in a speech in Versailles last year that he wanted “a radically new path” for the way French politics worked, and a more efficient form of government.

However, Macron’s promises of institutional and constitutional change in France have proved a thorny issue and the government could still face opposition.

The government needs the support of the Senate if it is to pass the reforms. The Senate, led by the opposition right, has been critical of parts of the plan and the government has had to compromise.

François Bayrou, the centrist leader of the MoDem party, who backed Macron’s presidential campaign and was briefly justice minister, immediately suggested that electing 15% of lawmakers via proportional representation was not enough. Bayrou, a long-term campaigner for proportional representation, had wanted the figure to be 25%.

He told Le Monde that the announcement was a “starting point” and that “things could be improved”. Both the left and the far-right criticised the plans for not going far enough to transform politics and strengthen parliament, saying instead that Macron was protecting the status quo.

Philippe said: “These bills [for the proposed legislation] will contribute to a deep renovation of political and parliamentary life, in a spirit of responsibility, representativity and efficiency.”

The government also plans to prevent politicians from serving three consecutive terms in the same elected role. Mayors of towns with fewer than 9,000 people will be exempt from this rule, in a concession to the right in the Senate.

Philippe said broader constitutional change would include adding a mention of the status of the Mediterranean island of Corsica into the constitution – a rare nod to the demands of nationalists who are currently in an unprecedented position of political strength in local politics on the island.

The cuts to lawmaker numbers and the introduction of proportional representation will initially be presented as standard legislation in parliament.

Other planned constitutional changes would require the backing of three-fifths of MPs and senators in a special vote, or else the government could decide to call a referendum.

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