France’s Hollande Floats Unity Government as the Left Wavers

(Bloomberg) -- Former French President Francois Hollande indicated he’d be ready to build a new coalition that could govern if elections deliver a hung parliament as a leftist bloc he’s joined struggles to paper over internal divisions.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Hollande said he reentered the political fray in France to run for a seat at the National Assembly with a primary objective of stopping Marine Le Pen’s National Rally from taking power.

Polls show her anti-immigration, nationalist party is set to take the largest number of seats, ahead of the left’s New Popular Front that’s in second place and President Emmanuel Macron’s group in third. But those surveys also indicate that it’s unlikely anyone would have an absolute majority.

“There is a scenario in which there is no majority — it’s the role of political figures like me to find solutions,” Hollande said in an interview on BFMTV. “There are several ways of doing it, we’ll see what is appropriate to do – find a head of government who could take the country forward with a minimal program.”

In such a configuration, Hollande said each group — with the exception of the National Rally — would ask for some of its proposals to be taken up by the government.

The former president’s comments add another permutation to a short, hectic election campaign that has already redrawn the lines of French politics, fueling investor concerns that the country is heading into prolonged instability and costly economic policies.

Macron called the snap election after his party was crushed in the European Parliament ballot just over two weeks ago. The first round of voting is set for Sunday, with the second and final round on July 7.

The emergence of the left’s New Popular Front was a central development in the campaign, bringing together perennially feuding parties from Hollande’s moderate Socialists and the Greens to Jean-Luc Melenchon’s far-left France Unbowed. Their deal carved up France’s election map so that only one candidate in the alliance would run in each district.

But there are already some dissenters, and even places where two France Unbowed candidates are running because of internal party divisions.

More fundamentally there’s long-running antipathy between Melenchon and Hollande, who were rivals in the 2012 presidential election.

Speaking on LCI television moments after the broadcast of Hollande’s interview, Melenchon rejected the idea of some form of unity government.

“Consensus is not my goal. It’s not even an idea that’s democratic,” he said. “I don’t know any president or prime minister who seeks out consensus in France. It doesn’t exist.”

The far-left firebrand also repeated that he considers himself capable of becoming prime minister after the elections — an idea that many in the New Popular Front have opposed.

Hollande said the election will probably deliver more Socialists and Green lawmakers than from Melenchon’s France Unbowed.

“He can say what he likes but to be prime minister there are two conditions: the person has to be named by the President and be acceptable to a majority in the National Assembly,” Hollande said. “He is not recognized as being the person who should govern the country.”

‘Mouse Hole’

Macron has already hinted at a post-election configuration similar to the one suggested by Hollande, inviting opposing political groups to govern together to block the path to power of the far right

“There are plenty of women and men who will have to govern together, whatever their differences, but there are extremes that must not pass,” Macron said last week.

Also speaking on BFMTV, a former lawmaker allied with Macron’s group said there is a “mouse hole” of an opportunity to bring together social democrats, centrists and the center right.

“We can find common ground because we have to give hope to moderate French people on the left, the right or the center who don’t see themselves in the National Rally and don’t want to be hostages of the National Rally,” Pierre-Yves Bournazel said.

Le Pen’s party is forecast to win the first round with 36%, according to a poll of voting intentions by Ipsos on Thursday, up 0.5 point. The New Popular Front would be second with 29%, with Macron’s Renaissance party and its allies in third place with 19.5%.

Ipsos surveyed 11,820 adults registered to vote online on June 21-24; margin of error 0.2 point to 1.1 point

(Updates with the latest poll numbers in the final two paragraphs.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.