Macron seeks formulas to avoid paralysis after the setback in the legislative elections in France | International
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Emmanuel Macron was not prepared for this two months after being re-elected in the presidential elections. Locked in silence and surrounded by the team closest to him in the Elysée Palace, he weighs the next steps and redesigns a second five-year period in which his power has shrunk. After accepting the biggest setback of his brief political career, he is forced by circumstances to learn – he, who wanted to be a Jupiterian head of state, a kind of republican monarch – the art of compromise and concession.
The French president was not ready for the sanction against him in the legislative elections on Sunday. Nor for a National Assembly in which, despite the fact that the Macronist Ensemble coalition will have the largest parliamentary group, it is far from an absolute majority, and will have to seek allies to pass any law and avoid paralysis in France.
On paper, the president could build a majority with the right, reluctant to enter the pact. Or seek alliances case by case to add the majority. If none of these options works, he has a third: dissolve Parliament and call new elections.
The domes of the parties and the Elysee began this Monday to design strategies and move chips, while the new deputies arrived at a hemicycle that, suddenly, becomes the center of political life after years of marginalization.
The situation is unprecedented since 1958, when General Charles de Gaulle founded the current Fifth Republic as a presidential regime designed to put an end to parliamentary instability that now threatens to return.
Macron has been quiet since Sunday. This Tuesday and Wednesday he has invited the leaders of the future parliamentary groups to the Elysee, reports the France Presse agency, a contact with the complicated legislature.
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Custom dictates that, after the legislative, the prime minister present his resignation and that of the Government to the president, and that the president reappoint him immediately. Not a move, for now.
The unusual absence of a parliamentary majority after the re-election of the president has a precedent. François Mitterrand and his Prime Minister Michel Rocard also did not obtain an absolute majority in the 1988 legislative elections, but they stayed closer than Macron, and were able to govern with specific agreements and by decree.
“There is no alternative to the union to guarantee our country stability and conduct the necessary reforms,” Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said on Sunday night, now on the tightrope. “We must include multiple sensitivities and we must build good commitments to act in the service of France”, she pointed out.
Despite appearing as the losers of these legislative elections, the Ensemble macronistas will be, far behind the rest, the group with the most seats in the National Assembly: 246. The problem is the abrupt drop in the number of deputies: in the previous legislature it had 345. The first opposition force will be, in theory, the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (NUPES), led by the Eurosceptic and anti-capitalist Jean-Luc Mélenchon and which includes socialists, environmentalists and communists. They will occupy, according to the official count, 131 seats, and some more if left-wing candidates in the overseas territories are included.
The only party that felt victorious on Sunday is Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), with 89 deputies. The extreme right has gone, in five years, from occupying eight seats to being the third force in the National Assembly. Or the second, as Le Pen claims. Because the lepenistas point out that, in reality, NUPES will not form a parliamentary group: its components (Melenchonistas from La Francia Insumisa (LFI), socialists, communists and environmentalists) will each have their own parliamentary group. Of these, the largest is LFI, but it only has 75 deputies, 14 fewer than Le Pen’s RN.
Being the first opposition group can have consequences in the distribution of parliamentary power. By tradition, the presidency of the decisive Finance Commission of the National Assembly is ceded to the opposition. Le Pen maintains that it corresponds to the RN.
“LA NUPES should be constituted as a single group in Parliament to form a united opposition,” said Mélenchon on Monday, who was not a candidate for a seat in these legislative elections, but continues to act as leader of the coalition. Socialists, ecologists and communists rejected the proposal. The Socialist Party (PS) also distanced itself from another LFI proposal, Mélenchon’s party: to present a motion of censure against Borne on July 5. The leftist alliance shows the first cracks.
Macron has two options if he wants the legislature to last. One is to seek a permanent coalition agreement. The only option to add more than the 289 seats, which mark the threshold of an absolute majority, is an agreement with The Republicans (LR), the party of the traditional right, that of presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. It has 64 deputies.
The alliance with LR, majority in the Senate, would give stability to the Government and would allow it to promote reforms such as pensions, associated in France to the right. Nor would it imply an abrupt ideological shift. Macron had, in the first five years, two prime ministers from LR. And the two most prominent ministers of the current government (Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, and Interior, Gérald Darmanin) were members of the same party.
“We will continue in the opposition,” warned the president of LR, Christian Jacob, on election night. It can be understood that it is a blunt negative. Or as the sign that he will sell dearly a pact that, in any case, would force a thorough remodeling of the Government and perhaps the departure of Borne, identified with the social democratic wing of macronism. Nor is it certain that the entire Republican group wanted to join the agreement. The most right-wing sector feels closer to Le Pen than to Macron.
The second option for the president: instead of looking for a permanent coalition, look for occasional allies. For social or environmental laws, socialists and environmentalists. For economic or security policies, LR.
Whatever the option, it would mean a break with the usual practices in the Fifth Republic, designed to give a solid majority in the legislative to a party or coalition of parties, preferably that of the president. But the collapse of the traditional parties (the Socialist Party and LR) since Macron came to power, in 2017, has upset all balances. In the last presidential elections, France split into three (Mélenchon, Macron, Le Pen) and has reaffirmed it in the legislative ones. No one has a majority, but the opposition forces, antagonistic to each other, cannot form alternative majorities either.
The idea of parliamentary pacts or consensus is foreign to the political culture of contemporary France. It is associated with the instability of the Fourth Republic, in which governments lasted for months, or days. Now the country faces a dilemma: pact or paralysis. The five-year period could end up being very long for Macron.
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