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

  • Conservatives say coalition pact ‘betrayal’
  • President’s office says it is looking for constructive solutions
  • Far right say “we need to be heard”

PARIS, June 21 (Reuters) – French opposition leaders told President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday they would not make life easy for him as he sought a way to avoid political paralysis after the setback of this weekend’s parliament election.

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

While he has been in full control of parliament for the past five years, Macron must now find support from opponents after voters outraged over inflation and his alleged indifference led to a hung parliament on Sunday.

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The election results could herald an era of political instability not seen in France for decades.

Senior ministers said the government would continue its work and seek support from parliament when it needs a majority.

Edouard Philippe, Macron’s former prime minister and an influential figure, urged 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 have to form a coalition, a large coalition of people who spontaneously do not want to cooperate and who propose different political programs,” Philippe told BFM TV.

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

But Christian Jacob, the leader of Les Republicains, said after his meeting with Macron: “I told the president that it is out of the question to conclude a coalition agreement, which would be a betrayal of our voters.”

Previously, Jacob had called the president “arrogant.”

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

“Do all Republican lawmakers share Christian Jacob’s view? I’m not so sure,” she said. “Always being in the opposition is pointless.”

Her camp could find common ground with Macron on planned reforms, especially regarding pension legislation, she said.

Les Republicains are the most obvious place for Macron to find support. Their 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” and seemingly open the door to potentially messy bill negotiations.

“WASTE OUR TIME”

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

If Macron fails to gain support to pass laws, France could face a long period of political deadlock that could later force him to call snap elections.

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

“We’re just wasting our time,” he said.

The Elysee said Borne had tendered her resignation but Macron had refused so that the government could continue to work.

A quick fix doesn’t seem within reach and starting 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.

COMPROMISE

Marine Le Pen, whose far-right National Rally now numbers 89 MPs, from eight in the previous term, said Macron needs to hear what her party has to say and “cannot continue the policies he has led (so far).

Olivier Faure, leader of the Parti Socialiste, which joined the left-wing Nupes bloc before the election, said his party could support some policy proposals, but only if Macron adopted their ideas.

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

“From now on… he will be forced to take on a bigger role for parliament… and it’s quite healthy for him to be accountable, negotiate and seek common ground.”

Communist Party Secretary General Fabien Roussel said Macron is considering forming a national unity government and asked if he would participate.

“It’s not something that shocks us – to participate with others in the reconstruction of 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; Editing by Alison Williams, Angus MacSwan and Richard Pullin

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