President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp on Monday rushed to win backing from rivals to salvage part of his reform agenda after weekend elections resulted in a fragmented parliament that leaves France threatened with paralysis Politics.
The loss of the absolute majority of his Ensemble alliance is a bitter setback for Macron, himself elected for a second term in April. French governments have long been accustomed to having a lower house of parliament that shares their political line and broadly approves proposals.
Sunday’s run-off vote left Together as the largest party, with a nascent left-wing alliance determined to make its voice heard in second place, the far right stronger than ever and the Tories as potential kingmakers.
“It’s going to be complicated,” government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire told France Inter radio. “We’re going to have to be creative.
The loss of control of parliament means that Macron will have to abandon his top-down approach to politics, which he himself has described as “Jupiterian”, for a much more consensual position.
“Such a fragmented parliament is likely to lead to a political stalemate, with a much slower reform agenda,” Barclays’ Philippe Gudin said.
“This will likely weaken France’s position in Europe and endanger the country’s fiscal situation, which is already weak.” Grégoire said he would soon reshuffle his government, which could see Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne lose her job after just over a month in office.
And then ?
It is unclear whether Jean-Luc Melenchon’s broad left-wing Nupes alliance can hold together and what influence Marine Le Pen’s strong far-right contingent will wield.
“We will try to get others on board, in particular to convince the few moderates in parliament to follow us,” Grégoire said.
A key question is whether Macron will try to hammer out a coalition deal with conservative Les Républicains (LR) – who have so far rejected that option – or engage in messy negotiations with lawmakers on a case-by-case basis.
With a few isolated votes, LR lawmakers who met on Monday to discuss the fallout from the election have so far rejected a coalition pact – but the door could be open to deals on a case-by-case basis.
Republican leader Christian Jacob said again on Monday that he opposes reaching a deal with Macron.
“We just had a debate and what I’m telling you here is our almost unanimous position, reflecting an overwhelming majority,” Jacob told reporters as he left a meeting.
Ensemble and LR have compatible platforms on economic issues, including raising the retirement age and promoting nuclear energy. Together they would have an absolute majority.
Asked about possible defections from LR, Jacob said his lawmakers “campaigned together and we will stay together without any difficulty”.
If no deal with the opposition can be reached, the euro zone’s second-largest economy faces political stalemate and a possible snap election.
A major first test will be a cost-of-living bill that Gregoire said the government will submit to lawmakers in eight days, when the new parliament sits for the first time.
The summer proposals on renewable energy will test the strength of the left, divided on nuclear.
Final figures showed Macron’s centrist camp won 245 seats – well below the 289 needed for an outright majority, Nupes 131, the far right 89 and Les Républicains 61.
Macron himself has yet to comment on the election result and the opposition has urged him to break his silence.
The vote was a painful setback for the 44-year-old president, whose victory in April made him the first French president in two decades to win a second term, as voters rallied to hold down his hardline opponent right Le Pen out of power.
In his last mandate, he had wanted to deepen the integration of the European Union, raise the retirement age and breathe new life into the French nuclear industry.
Financial markets took the result largely in their stride, with little impact on the euro and stocks in early trading on Monday. French bond spreads have come under some increasing pressure.
“The hope that some forex traders placed in Macron in 2017 evaporated some time ago, so that election wins or defeats no longer play a major role for euro exchange rates,” he said. Commerzbank analyst Ulrich Leuchtmann in a note.
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