Macron turns to coalition-building after losing majority in parliamentary elections

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French President Emmanuel Macron and his allies are trying to cobble together a working coalition after his centrist alliance lost its majority in legislative elections, raising the prospect of a prolonged political impasse. Macron will hold talks Tuesday and Wednesday at the Élysée Palace with representatives from the leading parties.

Macron's Ensemble (Together) coalition emerged as the largest single party in parliamentary elections but fell dozens of seats short of the parliamentary majority it had enjoyed for the last five years.

France now faces the prospect of months – if not years – of political impasse.

The election saw a new left-wing coalition known as NUPES make gains to become the main opposition alliance while the far right under Marine Le Pen posted its best legislative performance in its history.

Ensemble has now begun work to try and find a majority by forming deals with the more traditional parties on the right. Macron will hold talks on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Élysée Palace with representatives from the leading parties, the presidency said in a statement late Monday.

Macron, 44, risks becoming embroiled in domestic political problems as he concurrently seeks to play a prominent role in bringing an end to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and as a key EU statesman.

The election outcome severely tarnished Macron's April presidential election victory when he defeated the far right to be the first French president to win a second term in more than two decades.

The new left-wing coalition – led by longtime leftist figurehead Jean-Luc Mélenchon – won 131 seats, according to the interior ministry. The coalition formed in May to unite the Socialist Party, the far left, Communists and the green party in a successful bid to challenge Macron's legislative majority.

Mélenchon, 70, called Sunday's results "an electoral failure" for the sitting president. "The rout of the presidential party is total and there will be no majority," he told cheering supporters in Paris.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National (National Rally) party also made huge gains and will send 89 MPs to the new legislature, making it the main right-wing force in parliament – ahead of the more traditionally conservative Les Républicains party.

The options available to Macron range from seeking to form a new alliance, passing legislation based on ad hoc agreements or even calling new elections.

"It's a turning point for his image of invincibility," said Bruno Cautres, a researcher at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po university in Paris.

"Le Monde" daily headlined its website, "Macron faces the risk of political paralysis" while the right-wing "Le Figaro" said the results raised the spectre of a "stillborn" second mandate.

Macron had hoped to stamp his second term with an ambitious programme of tax cuts, welfare reform and raising the retirement age. All that is now in question.

"This will complicate the reforms ... It will be much more difficult to govern," said Dominique Rousseau, professor of law at Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne University.

A prominent MP from Mélenchon's party, Alexis Corbière, said the election results meant Macron's controversial plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 was now off the agenda.

Conservative would-be partners to ‘stay in opposition’

There could now potentially be weeks of political deadlock as the president seeks to reach out to new parties.

The most likely option would be an alliance with Les Républicains (LR), the traditional party of the French right, which has 61 MPs.

But LR party president Christian Jacob has repeatedly made clear his party intended to "stay in opposition".

Other voices from the right appeared more open, with conservative former minister Jean-François Copé saying a "government pact between Macron and LR is vital to fight against the rise of extremes".

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire denied claims that France would be ungovernable under the new parliament but admitted that "a lot of imagination will be needed" from the ruling party as it faces an "unprecedented situation".

“It’s going to be complicated,” government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire told France Inter radio on Monday, adding: “We’re going to have to be creative.”

A first major test will be a cost-of-living bill that Grégoire said the government will present eight days from now, when the new parliament sits for the first time.

Proposals on renewable energy set for later in the summer are likely to test the leftist NUPES alliance, which is divided over nuclear power.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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