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French President Emmanuel Macron casts his ballot during the final round of the country's parliamentary elections, in Le Touquet, France, on June 19 2022. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/MICHEL SPINGLER
French President Emmanuel Macron casts his ballot during the final round of the country's parliamentary elections, in Le Touquet, France, on June 19 2022. Picture: POOL via REUTERS/MICHEL SPINGLER

French President Emmanuel Macron refused to accept his prime minister's resignation and met with opposition leaders on Tuesday as he sought a way out of a political predicament after losing his parliamentary majority.

Disaffected voters, angered by spiralling inflation and Macron’s perceived indifference towards hard-up families, delivered a hung parliament in Sunday’s election, leaving the president’s centrist alliance several dozen seats short of a majority.

This leaves his centrist Ensemble bloc seeking support from the opposition benches to salvage his reform agenda.

Macron’s opponents said it was time he listened to others and such support would come at a cost. Christian Jacob, leader of the conservative Les Republicains, said Macron was “arrogant” in his first term.

“We’re not going to betray those who showed faith in us. Those who voted for us did not do it so that we enter with little thought into any old coalition,” Jacob told reporters after an hour-long meeting with Macron.

Les Republicains provide the most obvious place for Macron to find support. The conservatives’ economic platform is largely compatible with Macron’s, including his plans to raise the retirement age by three years to 65.

However, the conservatives, whose past presidents include Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, have so far ruled out a formal German-style coalition pact.

Even so, Jacob said his party would be “responsible” and would not “block the institutions”, seemingly opening the door to co-operation bill by bill.

Macron’s camp has said it hoped to work with moderates on the political right and left. The president wants to deepen EU integration, make the French work longer and build new nuclear plants. He aims “to identify possible constructive solutions” in this weeks, the Elysee palace said.

Negotiate

Sunday’s elections delivered a fragmented parliament and plunged France into uncharted waters with no rule book on how to exit the crisis.

If Macron and his alliance fail to secure support, France could face a long spell of political gridlock that may later compel Macron to dissolve parliament and call a new election.

Olivier Faure, leader of the Parti Socialiste, which joined the left-wing Nupes bloc ahead of the election, said his party could back some policy proposals, but only if Macron took their ideas on board.

“We have had a so-called Jupiterian period when the president decided alone and where he was not accountable to anyone,” Faure told reporters.

“From now on ... he is forced into accepting a bigger role for parliament ... and it’s rather healthy that he be accountable, negotiate, seek points of agreement.”

No easy solution appears to be at hand. From Thursday Macron will be engaged in a week of international meetings abroad, including EU, Group of Seven and Nato summits.

Opposition calls for Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to step down intensified on Monday. On Tuesday the Elysee said she had tendered her resignation but that Macron had rejected it so that the government could keep working.

The Elysee statement hinted it could be only a temporary reprieve. Borne was due to meet her cabinet later on Tuesday.

“The result of the legislative elections should make [Macron] think,” said the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, whose party won by far its highest number of legislators in the National Assembly.

Manuel Bompard of the hard-Left La France Insoumise party, another member of the Left-wing Nupes alliance, said there would “sooner or later”  be a snap election.

A government insider said it was not in Macron’s interests to call a snap election now. “It is a card to play when the country is paralysed.”

Reuters

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