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Macron refuses French PM’s resignation after chaotic election results

08 Jul 2024 5 minute read
Marine le Pen (CC BY 3.0 NO). Picture by Marie-Lan Nguyen. Right, Emmanuel Macron. Picture by European Parliament (CC BY 2.0).

French President Emmanuel Macron has refused the resignation of the country’s Prime Minister, asking him to remain temporarily as the head of the government after chaotic election results left the government in limbo.

Voters split the legislature on the left, centre and far right, leaving no faction even close to the majority needed to form a government.

The results from Sunday’s vote raised the risk of political paralysis for the European Union’s second-largest economy.

Mr Macron had gambled on his decision to call snap elections giving France a “moment of clarification”, but the outcome showed the opposite, less than three weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics.

France’s main share index opened with a dip, but quickly recovered, possibly because markets had feared an outright victory for the far right or the leftist coalition.

Resignation

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal had said he would remain in office if needed, but offered his resignation on Monday morning.

Mr Macron, who appointed him just seven months ago, immediately asked Mr Attal to stay on “to ensure the stability of the country”.

The day before, Mr Attal made clear that he disagreed with Mr Macron’s decision to call the surprise elections.

The results of two rounds of voting left no obvious path to form a government for either the leftist coalition that came in first, Mr Macron’s centrist alliance, or the far right.

Newly elected and returning legislators were expected to gather at the National Assembly to begin negotiations in earnest.

Mr Macron himself will leave later in the week for a Nato summit in Washington.

Political deadlock could have far-ranging implications for the war in Ukraine, global diplomacy and Europe’s economic stability. However, at least one leader said the results were a relief.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a former European Union Council head, wrote late Sunday on X: “In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw.”

According to official results, all three main blocs fell far short of the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

The results showed just over 180 seats for the New Popular Front leftist coalition, which placed first, ahead of Mr Macron’s centrist alliance, with more than 160 seats.

National Rally

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and its allies were restricted to third place, although their more than 140 seats were still way ahead of the party’s previous best showing of 89 seats in 2022.

Mr Macron has three years remaining on his presidential term.

In announcing his resignation, Mr Attal made clearer than ever his disapproval of Macron’s shock decision to call the election, saying: “I didn’t choose this dissolution” of the outgoing National Assembly, where the president’s centrist alliance used to be single biggest group, albeit without an absolute majority.

Rather than rallying behind Mr Macron as he had hoped, millions took the vote as an opportunity to vent anger about inflation, crime, immigration and other grievances – including his style of government.

The New Popular Front’s leaders immediately pushed Mr Macron to give them the first chance to form a government and propose a prime minister.

The faction pledges to roll back many of Mr Macron’s headline reforms, embark on a costly programme of public spending, and take a tougher line against Israel because of its war with Hamas.

But it is not clear, even among the left, who could lead the government without alienating crucial allies.

“We need someone who offers consensus,” said Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist Party, which joined the leftist coalition and was still sorting out how many seats it won on Monday.

Economic programme

Mr Macron warned that the left’s economic programme of many tens of billions of euro in public spending, partly financed by taxes on wealth and hikes for high earners, could be ruinous for France, already criticised by EU watchdogs for its debt.

A hung parliament is unknown territory for modern France.

Despite the uncertainty, supporters on the left cheered in Republique plaza in eastern Paris when the first results came in, with people spontaneously hugging strangers and several minutes of nonstop applause.

The political agreement between the left and centre to block the National Rally was largely successful.

Many voters decided that keeping the far right from power was more important to them than anything else, backing its opponents in the run-off.

National Rally leader Ms Le Pen, who was expected to make a fourth run for the French presidency in 2027, said the elections laid the groundwork for “the victory of tomorrow”.

Racism and antisemitism marred the electoral campaign, along with Russian disinformation efforts, and more than 50 candidates reported being physically attacked.

Unlike other countries in Europe that are more accustomed to coalition governments, France does not have a tradition of legislators rom rival political camps coming together to form a majority.

France is also more centralised than many other European countries, with many more decisions made in Paris.


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