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[PARIS] President Francois Hollande's government used its constitutional right to push a flagship economic reform bill through parliament without a vote on Thursday, defying critics who have accused it of riding roughshod over democracy.
The package, which includes rules to broaden trading hours and deregulate some sectors, is aimed at spurring growth. While modest by comparison to reforms undertaken by some of France's European neighbours, the draft law has triggered street protests and a rebellion by back-bench lawmakers.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced to parliament he had decided to invoke article 49.3 of the French constitution for the final reading of the bill, as he has done on past readings in the first use of the controversial power for nearly a decade.
Dubbed the "Macron law" after Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, the bill cuts red tape in a wide variety of areas - for example by bringing greater competition to paralegal professions including notaries.
It will also allow more shops to open late or on Sundays, speed up job dismissal procedures and allow bus companies to offer long-distance domestic services hitherto reserved for airlines and the state-owned SNCF railway.
Such reforms were cited as a precondition for France to win more time from European Union partners to bring its public deficit within EU limits.
Economists say that while the Macron law is no game-changer for the eurozone's second largest economy, it will add about 0.5 percentage points a year to Gross Domestic Product within five to 10 years.
The government expects growth of around one percent this year after just 0.2 percent in 2014.