French centrists seek alliance with rightists in hung parliament

Published July 11, 2024 Updated July 11, 2024 07:11am

PARIS: French centrists were looking for an alliance with the right on Wednesday, after an inconclusive snap election left the European Union’s second-largest economy with a hung parliament.

In a surprise outcome, a broad left-wing coalition won most seats in Sunday’s vote, dashing the far right’s dreams of an absolute majority that would allow it to lead government.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s government will remain in power as Paris makes final preparations for the Olympics, starting in just over two weeks, but his centrist group in parliament lost ground and the hunt is on for a figure to replace him. French leftists believe that as the largest bloc in the new National Assembly with some 190 seats they are entitled to suggest a new prime minister.

But many in President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp, which holds around 160 seats, would refuse to support a new government that includes figures from the hard left.

The president’s Renaissance outfit on Wednesday sought to find allies in the lower chamber, but appeared divided, with some seeking to include forces ranging from the centre left to the right in a broad coalition, and others only wishing to join forces with conservatives.

Aurore Berger, re-elected on Sunday and minister in charge of gender equality in the outgoing government, said her group

wanted to ally with the conservative Republicans and other members of parliament near the centre.

“There are a little more than 160 of us today... and I am hearing of other lawmakers... who would be ready to join us, which means we could become more in numbers than the left-wing bloc,” she told the France 2 television channel.

‘Move forward’

Macron had laid low since the election results, and was away on Wednesday for a Nato summit in Washington. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who was also re-elected, told the CNews broadcaster he could support a “right-wing prime minister”.

Former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a Macron ally, has called for a deal between the centrists and the conservatives “to move forward and be able to manage the country’s affairs for at least a year”.

Francois Bayrou, another Macron supporter, urged the president to name a prime minister who could “bring together” both sides of parliament.

Any contender would have to survive a confidence vote in parliament when it opens for business next week. The wide leftist alliance including Greens, Socialists, Communists and LFI has said they would suggest a candidate for prime minister by the end of the week.

Divisive LFI leader Jean-Luc Melenchon has put forward 33-year-old Clemence Guette, who prepared his programme when he ran for president in 2022, failing to reach the second round. The more moderate Socialist leader Olivier Faure has also said that he would be willing to lead a cabinet himself.

‘Beyond reproach’

Despite doing less well than expected, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally (RN) and allies have still gained ground in the National Assembly, from 89 seats in 2022 to more than 140 today. Winning an absolute majority “has only been postponed,” she told reporters as she led dozens of newly elected RN lawmakers on a visit to their new workplace.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2024

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