French opposition tells ‘arrogant’ Macron: compromise to win support
French opposition leaders told beleaguered President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday that they would not make life easy for him as he sought a way to avoid political paralysis after this weekend’s election setback in parliament.
Macron should fire his prime minister, some opponents said, after he earlier refused to accept her resignation, review his reform plans and drop his top-down approach to power.
While he enjoyed full control over parliament over the past five years, Macron now needs to find support from opponents, after disaffected voters angry over inflation and his perceived indifference delivered a hung parliament on Sunday.
It will not be easy. The election result may herald an era of political instability not seen for decades in France.
“I told the president that it was out of the question to enter into a coalition deal, that would be a betrayal of our voters,” Christian Jacob, leader of the conservative Les Republicains, said after meeting Macron, whom he had earlier described as “arrogant.”
Les Republicains provide the most obvious place for Macron to find support. The conservatives’ economic platform is largely compatible with Macron’s, including his plans to raise the retirement age by three years to 65.
However, the conservatives, whose past presidents include Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, have so far ruled out a formal German-style coalition pact.
Even so, Jacob said his party would be “responsible,” seemingly opening the door to potentially messy bill-by-bill negotiations. But even then, he stressed, it was up to Macron to make the effort to take their proposals on board.
“WASTING OUR TIME”
Jean-Luc Melenchon, a hard-left veteran who united the left in an alliance that won the second-biggest number of MPs, told reporters that Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had to go.
“We’re just wasting our time,” he said bluntly, in a sign of how combative his camp plans to be.
The Elysee said Borne had tendered her resignation but that Macron had refused so that the government could keep working.
Nonetheless, the wording of the Elysee statement hinted it could be only a temporary reprieve, at a time where much is in the air.
Macron has not spoken publicly since the election. Francois Bayrou, a close, center-right ally, said after meeting Macron that the president was “thinking things through” and that it would take time.
No quick solution appears to be at hand and from Thursday Macron will be distracted by a week of international meetings abroad, including EU, G7 and NATO summits.
Marine Le Pen, whose far-right National Rally now has 89 MPs, from eight in the previous legislature, stressed that Macron must hear what her party has to say and “cannot continue the policy he has led (so far).”
Olivier Faure, leader of the Parti Socialiste, which joined the left-wing Nupes bloc ahead of the election, said his party could back some policy proposals – but only if Macron took on board their ideas.
“We have had a so-called Jupiterian period when the president decided alone and where he was not accountable to anyone,” Faure told reporters.
“From now on…he is forced into accepting a bigger role for parliament … and it’s rather healthy that he be accountable, negotiate, seek points of agreement.”
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 secure support to get laws adopted, France could face a long spell of political gridlock that may later on compel him to call a snap election – an eventuality Manuel Bompard, a lawmaker in Melenchon’s party, forecast would happen “sooner or later”.
A government insider said it was not in Macron’s interests to call a snap election now, but that “it is a card to play in the event the country is paralysed.”