French opposition tells ‘arrogant’ Macron: compromise to win support

  • Conservatives say coalition pact would be ‘betrayal’
  • The president’s office says it seeks constructive solutions
  • The far right says “we must be heard”

PARIS, June 21 (Reuters) – French opposition leaders told President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday they would not make his life easy as he sought a way to avoid political gridlock following this weekend’s electoral setback in parliament.

Some opponents said Macron should fire his prime minister, review his reform plans and abandon his top-down approach to power.

While he enjoyed complete control over parliament for the past five years, Macron now needs to find support from opponents, after voters angry at inflation and their perceived indifference led to a hung parliament on Sunday.

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The election result may herald an era of political instability not seen in France for decades.

The chief ministers said the government would continue its work and look to parliament for support when it needed a majority.

Edouard Philippe, Macron’s former prime minister and an influential figure, urged the parties to form a coalition to secure a ruling majority. This would be a first in modern French politics.

“For the first time in France, we need to form a coalition, a big coalition of people who spontaneously don’t want to work together and who present different political programs,” Philippe told BFM TV.

He said he could “imagine” striking a deal with conservative Les Republicains, Philippe’s former in-laws from which he defected after Macron was first elected in 2017.

But Les Republicanains leader Christian Jacob said after meeting Macron: “I told the president it was out of the question to enter into a coalition agreement, that would be a betrayal of our voters.”

Previously, Jacob had called the president “arrogant.”

But cracks began to appear in their camp. Catherine Vautrin, a member of Les Republicans who had been cited as a possible choice as Macron’s new prime minister, urged her party to soften her stance.

“Do all Republican lawmakers share Christian Jacob’s opinion? I’m not so sure,” she said. “Always being in opposition makes no sense.”

His camp could find common ground with Macron on planned reforms, that is, regarding retirement legislation, he said.

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

Jacob said his party would be “responsible,” apparently opening the door to potentially complicated bill negotiations.

“WASTING OUR TIME”

The pro-European president who wants to deepen EU integration, make the French work longer and build new nuclear plants, wants this week’s talks with the opposition to “identify possible constructive solutions”, the Elysee palace said.

If Macron fails to win support for the laws to be passed, France could face a long period of political stalemate that could later force him to call early elections.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, a veteran of the far left who united the left in an alliance that won the second largest number of MPs, told reporters that Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had to go.

“We’re just wasting time,” he said.

The Elysee said that Borne had submitted his resignation but that Macron had refused so that the government could continue working.

There appears to be no quick fix and from Thursday Macron, who has not spoken publicly since the election, will be distracted by a week of international meetings abroad, including EU, G7 and NATO summits.

COMMITMENT

Marine Le Pen, whose far-right National Grouping now has 89 MPs, up from eight in the previous legislature, said Macron must listen to what his party has to say and “cannot continue with the policy he has led (until now)”. .

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

“We have had a so-called Jupiterian period in which the president decided alone and was accountable to no one,” Faure told reporters.

“From now on … he is forced to accept a greater role for parliament … and it is quite healthy for him to be accountable, to negotiate, to seek points of agreement.”

According to the general secretary of the Communist Party, Fabien Roussel, Macron is considering forming a government of national unity and asked if he would participate.

“It’s not something that surprises us, participating with others to rebuild France, but it all depends on the project,” Roussel told LCI.

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Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Ingrid Melander, John Irish, Tassilo Hummel, writing by Ingrid Melander and Richard Lough; Edited by Alison Williams, Angus MacSwan and Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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