Against a backdrop of fierce opposition, the French National Assembly has voted in favor of approving a controversial bill that will enable Gaz de France to be privatized, removing a key obstacle in the company's proposed merger with Suez.

The legislation, which still needs to go before the French senate to be signed into law, will allow the French government to reduce its stake in Gaz de France (GDF) from 80% to 34%, clearing the way for the Suez merger to take place.

The bill won the National Assembly’s favor, being approved by 327 votes to 212 in the lower house, as energy workers and left-wing opposition demonstrated against the move.

Fearing that their jobs could be under threat if the merger does go ahead, thousands of workers belonging to GDF unions went on strike on the day of the vote, and were joined in protests by workers from Electricite de France, while the National Assembly’s debating chamber echoed with accusations from the Socialist Party that the government will be ‘dismantling’ a key national asset.