France enters uncharted territory after surprise left-wing victory in second round

France enters uncharted territory after surprise left-wing victory in second round
France enters uncharted territory after surprise left-wing victory in second round

(Bloomberg) — France’s political class is breathing a sigh of relief after a turbulent parliamentary election and is now focusing on a crucial phase of negotiations to form a new government.

On Monday, many of the new lawmakers from the left-wing alliance that came out on top in Sunday’s vote were busy hiring advisers and settling into their offices in the National Assembly. President Emmanuel Macron met with lawmakers from his party as representatives from across the political spectrum took stock of the situation.

Macron’s decision to call a snap election after a crushing defeat to the far right in last month’s European elections has cost him control of the French parliament. But with the lower house divided between three opposing blocs, it is unclear who will be able to lead the next government.

With 178 of the 577 seats, the left-wing New Popular Front could make the first move and Senator Yannick Jadot, tipped as a possible prime minister, told - that the group hopes to nominate a candidate in the coming days.

“We will propose a government this week,” said Jadot, who represents the Greens within the left-wing grouping. “We need a prime minister who is consensual within our group, who will bring calm to the country, who can find majorities around a number of important reforms that the country needs.”

The problem is that the candidate will need to win the support of Macron’s group and its 156 members in the National Assembly. Both groups, or at least part of them, will have to get as close as possible to the magic figure of 289 votes, the majority required to pass a law.

That will put pressure on the New Popular Front, which also includes the Socialists and the far-left party France Incolume. Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of that party, is very reluctant to continue cooperating with Macron’s centrists; the feeling is mutual.

However, the two groups coordinated their strategy for Sunday’s run-off, discarding weaker candidates to avoid splitting the vote. Tactical positioning pushed Marine Le Pen’s far-right into third place, with 143 seats despite leading nationally after the first round.

The upcoming negotiations are likely to test all parties involved as they consider the compromises needed to form a functioning government.

In a sign of the tensions yet to come, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who appears set to break away from Macron’s party to mount his own presidential bid in 2027, met separately with lawmakers from the president’s party. Gabriel Attal, Macron’s 35-year-old prime minister, was also keen to stress that it was not his decision to call early elections, but Macron’s alone.

Another solution would be to bring together centre-right and centre-left lawmakers to govern. That would effectively mirror Macron’s shift to the right. Since losing his absolute majority in the lower house in 2022, he has often passed laws thanks to the support of conservatives.

Xavier Bertrand, head of the Hauts-de-France region in the north of the country, told Bloomberg that such a coalition could address issues such as law and order, the cost of living and public services, which are at the heart of voter discontent.

“A large majority of French people are angry,” he said, possibly positioning himself as a prime ministerial contender. “What we really need is people who will try to unite us, whatever our differences. There are more important things than political parties.”

Agnes Pannier-Runacher, deputy agriculture minister, proposed a similar solution, saying the president’s party had to acknowledge that the left-wing alliance helped it avoid a far-right victory. Even if they disagree on many issues, Macron had to acknowledge that, she said.

“I know that a certain number of those who voted for me did so to block the National Rally,” Pannier-Runacher said on Sunday evening. “I know that this cause was very important to many people and I want to thank them. I feel responsible to these voters.”

Monday offered a moment of respite after a campaign that included street protests and wiped billions of euros off the value of French financial markets. But there was still a sense that France was still walking a tightrope.

“The electoral agreements and arrangements between Mélenchon and Macron have prevented us from obtaining a majority,” said Jordan Bardella, the president of Le Pen’s National Rally. “I find it very difficult for Macron to continue for three years in this situation, with everything blocked.”

A member of the Socialist Party joked that if things seem too calm, the president could appoint Melenchon as prime minister to stir things up again.

Nota Original: France Takes Uncharted Path as Snap Election Delivers Deadlock

–With the collaboration of James Regan.

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