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Macron courts coalition of rivals to block 'extremes' from power

William Horobin and Alexandre Rajbhandari, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

French President Emmanuel Macron said opposing political groups could govern together to block the path to power of the “extremes,” as polls indicate his centrist party and its allies are set for an election defeat.

With just a week to go until voting starts, Macron trails well behind Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and a hastily reassembled leftist bloc called the New Popular Front in surveys of intentions. One pollster even suggests the far-right party could clinch an absolute majority in the National Assembly, though France’s two-round voting system makes forecasting tricky.

If none of the three groups win more than half of the 577 seats in the lower house, the nation’s parliament risks being in gridlock, making it hard for Macron to chose a prime minister capable of commanding a majority.

“I am confident in the French people, their intelligence, their strength — there are plenty of differences, and respectable differences,” Macron said at a music concert at the Elysee Palace late Friday. “There are plenty of women and men who will have to govern together, whatever their differences, but there are extremes that must not pass.”

The comments give an indication of how Macron envisages navigating the situation to keep some degree of control over government. The equation is challenging, as the center-left, with which the president’s party could have found common ground on some policies, is now part of an alliance including far-left parties that he’s repudiated. Meanwhile, the center-right has splintered after its leader, Eric Ciotti, led some of the Republicans party into an alliance with Le Pen.

There are signs of a breakdown even within Macron’s own party, with heavyweights looking for an exit. His interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, said he won’t return in the same role even if the president gathers enough support, telling Le Parisien newspaper he wants to rebuild a center-right movement that is “firm, social, popular and attentive to others.” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said his own political future “will be written differently.”

During a campaign visit to the northern Pas-de-Calais region on Friday, Le Pen told reporters that Macron may have to resign if the elections lead to gridlock. His mandate runs until 2027 and he has said he won’t.

 

“A reshuffle in these circumstances doesn’t seem very useful, dissolution isn’t possible again for a year, so all that’s left for the president is to resign in order to exit potentially from a political crisis,” she said. “It’s not a request; he’ll do exactly what he wants and what the constitution allows him to.”

The National Rally is set to win 35% of the vote in the first round of voting on June 30, according to a poll of 1,009 adults by OpinionWay for Les Echos newspaper published on Saturday. The New Popular Front would get 28%, with Macron’s group garnering 22%.

A separate survey of 2,006 adults by Odoxa puts Le Pen’s party on 33% in the first round, and predicts it could win between 250 and 300 seats in the National Assembly. That’s based on an estimate of 120 to 170 potential three-way runoffs, compared with just eight during the last legislative elections in 2022.

The political uncertainty has rattled investor confidence in France, where current ministers were already facing difficulties to rein in budget deficits. A rout on markets has sent the premium to hold French bonds compared with safer German debt to the highest in over a decade, and the European Union on Wednesday reprimanded France for running a deficit that exceeds the bloc’s 3% limit. In May, before Macron called elections, S&P Global Ratings downgraded the country’s sovereign credit score.

A minority government could function in parliament by using a constitutional provision known as the 49.3 to bypass votes and adopt legislation. However, that exposes the government to being toppled by no-confidence votes, especially over budget bills.

“You mustn’t be scared to go and vote June 30, you must go and vote,” Macron said at Friday’s concert to try to drive home his message. “You must vote responsibly.”


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