French parties scramble for influence after inconclusive vote

Combined, the left-leaning parties hold 193 of 577 seats in the National Assembly and are well short of the 289-seat threshold for a majority.
Image used for representative purposes only.
Image used for representative purposes only. Photo | AP

fRENCH VOPARIS: French parties sought to project strength and gather allies on Tuesday, with the government adrift following an election in which no one political force claimed a clear majority.

Having defied expectations to top the polls, new MPs from the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance began showing up to visit their new workplaces in parliament ahead of a first session on July 18.

But the coalition of Greens, Socialists, Communists and the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) is still debating over who to put forward as a potential prime minister and whether it could be open to working in a broader coalition.

Combined, the left-leaning parties hold 193 of 577 seats in the National Assembly and are well short of the 289-seat threshold for a majority.

Nevertheless, members plan to name a potential prime minister "by the end of the week," leading LFI figure Mathilde Panot said.

Image used for representative purposes only.
Macron asks French prime minister to stay on for the sake of stability

In the French system, the president nominates the prime minister, who must be able to survive a confidence vote in parliament - a tricky proposition with three closely balanced political forces in play.

Any left-leaning government would need "broader support in the National Assembly," influential Socialist MP Boris Vallaud acknowledged in an interview with broadcaster France Inter.

Macron's camp came second in Sunday's vote, taking 164 seats after voters came together to block the far-right National Rally (RN) from power.

This left the anti-immigration, anti-Brussels outfit in third place with 143 MPs.

The president has kept Prime Minister Gabriel Attal's government in place for now, hoping horse-trading in the coming days and weeks could leave an opening for him to reclaim the initiative.

However, "there has been an institutional shift. Everyone thinks it's up to the newly-elected National Assembly to bring forth a solution, which (Macron) would simply have to accept," wrote commentator Guillaume Tabard in the conservative daily Le Figaro.

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French vote splits among left, center and far-right; With no majority, political paralysis threatens

'None can govern alone'

In a sign that some divisions remain, the left parties' MPs planned to enter the parliament at different times throughout the day.

The Socialists are still hoping to glean a few more members for their group to outweigh LFI and have a greater say over the alliance's direction.

Meanwhile, members of Macron's camp were eyeing both the centre-left Socialists and conservative Republicans as possible allies of convenience for a new centrist-dominated coalition.

"None of the three leading blocs can govern alone," Stephane Sejourne, head of Macron's Renaissance party, wrote in the daily Le Monde.

"The centrist bloc is ready to talk to all the members of the republican spectrum," he added - while naming red lines including that coalition members must support the EU and Ukraine and maintain business-friendly policies.

These requirements, he warned, "necessarily exclude LFI" and its caustic founder Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Markets are paying close attention to the EU's second-largest economy.

Ratings agency Moody's warned it could downgrade its credit score for France's more than three-trillion-euro debt pile if a future government reverses Macron's widely-loathed 2023 pension reform, echoing a Monday warning from S&P on the deficit.

What next?

Even as politicians struggle to define the immediate path ahead, eyes are also already turning to the next time French voters will be called to the polls.

Macron's term expires in 2027 and he cannot run a third time -- potentially leaving the way open for his twice-defeated opponent, RN figurehead Marine Le Pen, to finally capture the presidency.

The far-right outfit has been digesting a disappointing result after polls suggested it could take an absolute majority in parliament.

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French vote gives leftists most seats over far right, but leaves hung parliament and deadlock

On Tuesday, party sources told AFP its director-general Gilles Penelle had resigned.

Penelle, elected last month to the European Parliament, was the architect of a "push-button" plan supposed to prepare the RN for snap elections, which ultimately failed to produce a full roster of credible candidates.

The far-right outfit's progress is undeniable, having advanced from just eight MPs soon after Macron's first presidential win in 2017 to 143 today.

Greens and LFI leaders nevertheless called Tuesday for the RN to be shut out of key parliamentary posts.

"Every time we give them jobs, we increase their competence. It's important not to give them jobs with responsibilities," leading LFI lawmaker Mathilde Panot said.

"Today we represent 10 million French people with 143 MPs," retorted RN representative Thomas Menage, calling the appeal "anti-democratic".

As for Macron, he has sought to stay above the fray, planning for a trip to Washington for a NATO summit starting on Wednesday where allies may be in need of reassurance of France's stability.

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