PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday urged France’s political forces to make compromises to end a political deadlock sparked by his failure to retain a parliamentary majority that threatens to paralyse government.
Macron’s centrist alliance finished Sunday’s parliamentary elections 44 seats short of a majority in the National Assembly, as a new left-wing coalition and the far right made major gains.
The situation has called into question Macron’s plans for reform in his second term after his April presidential re-election — including a key measure to raise the retirement age — and risks denting his international stature.
Breaking three days of silence in the wake of the elections, Macron in a televised address to the nation ruled out a national unity government but appeared upbeat on the chances for progress, even if he did not offer any concrete solutions.
Macron said France’s political forces must “collectively learn to govern and legislate differently” by building “compromises, additions and amendments but doing so in complete transparency, for the sake of national unity”.
But Macron ruled out any attempt to create a “government of national unity”, saying such a move was “not justified” at this stage.
Macron acknowledged that the parliamentary elections had highlighted social problems in France, but he called on the opposition parties to “leave in-fighting behind” and move “beyond politics”.
– ‘Advance on major topics’ –
Over the past two days Macron has hosted rare talks at the Elysee Palace with opposition leaders to find a way out of the crisis.
He met the head of the far-right National Rally (RN) Marine Le Pen on Tuesday, while the head of the left-wing NUPES alliance, hard-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, sent MP Adrien Quatennens, 32, to represent him in talks on Wednesday.
The meetings so far appear to have made little headway, and Macron has also rejected an offer from under-fire PM Elisabeth Borne to resign.
But Macron said the opposition were ready “to advance on major topics” such as the cost of living, jobs, energy, climate and health”.
He said urgent draft laws, especially to alleviate the impact of inflation and rising energy prices, would be submitted to parliament over the summer.
Macron called on the opposition parties to “clarify in all transparency, in the coming days, how far they are willing to go” in their support of such measures which he said would not be financed by higher taxes.
The parliamentary impasse should not lead to “stagnation”, Macron said, but to “dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other”.
Macron’s intervention Wednesday was crucial for indicating his future strategy, especially as he is to be distracted by foreign policy and outside of France for much of the next week.
He is due to attend an EU summit on Thursday and Friday, then the G7 summit in Germany from Sunday and then the NATO summit in Madrid from Tuesday.
Analysts have said the most viable solution would be a deal between Macron’s centrist alliance and the right-wing Republicans (LR), a party on the decline but which still won 61 seats.
But after talks with Macron on Tuesday, LR leader Christian Jacob ruled out any kind of “pact” with Macron’s Together alliance.
– ‘All options on table’ –
Olivier Veran, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, told BFM on Wednesday that “all options” were on the table. But he ruled out working with Le Pen’s RN or Melenchon’s hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) to find a majority.
This could be achieved, he said, either through an alliance or on a “bill by bill” basis, with the government finding a majority thanks to certain MPs on the right or left, depending on the legislation.
Julien Bayou, the leader of the Green EELV party that is part of NUPES, said after his talks with Macron on Wednesday that his party would be in opposition. But it would vote “according to the national interest” and would put forward its own legislation on climate change.
Melenchon has threatened to file a motion of no-confidence against Borne next month, but other opposition leaders have shown less appetite for such action.
Borne, an experienced technocrat with little experience of frontline campaign politics and in office for just over month, has been widely criticised for her performance in the election.
While Macron has rejected her offer to resign, her future remains in question.
Francois Bayrou, a key Macron ally who leads the MoDem party that is part of his coalition, increased the pressure on Borne on Wednesday.
France needs a “political” prime minister, he said.
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