French President Emmanuel Macron proposed to “legislate in a different way” based on compromises between diverse political forces, three days after he suffered a major political blow when his party lost its parliamentary majority.
Macron spoke on Wednesday in a nationally televised address after two days of back-to-back meetings with the leaders of rival parties in an effort to show he is open to dialogue.
But those rivals appeared determined to remain in opposition to Macron and were not eager to cooperate with him. Macron was re-elected to the presidency in April.
“We must collectively learn to govern and legislate in a different way,” Macron said, offering to “build some new compromises with the political movements composing the new assembly. It must not mean [political] standstill. It must mean deals”.
They were his first public comments after his centrist Together! alliance won the most seats, 245, but still fell 44 lawmakers short of a majority in France’s most powerful house of parliament. His government retains the ability to rule, but only by bargaining with legislators.
The main opposition force is the left-wing Nupes coalition created by hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, with 131 seats.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen made a grand entrance on Wednesday into the National Assembly with dozens of lawmakers from her National Rally party, which obtained a historic score of 89 seats.
Such a political situation is highly unusual in France.
Macron said the National Assembly’s composition echoes “fractures, deep divisions across our country”.
“I believe it’s possible … to find a broader and clearer majority to take action,” he said.
He then listed a series of measures included in his own political platform, suggesting he does not intend to radically change his policies. His campaign promises include measures to boost purchasing power, tax cuts and raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65.
Macron urged political parties to say within the next two days whether they would be ready to form a government coalition or commit to vote some bills on a case-by-case basis.
Leaders from key parties, including the left-wing coalition, the conservatives and the far-right, have already suggested a governmental coalition is not an option.
Macron ruled out the idea of a “national union” that would include all political forces in the government as “not justified to this day”.
Melenchon immediately brushed aside his speech, describing it as “ratatouille” and calling on Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who Macron did not mention, to put forward the government’s roadmap to a parliamentary vote.
“There cannot be any other realities than this: the executive is weak, the National Assembly is strong,” Melenchon said.
An Elabe poll published on Wednesday showed 44 percent of French people supported the idea of bill-by-bill negotiations. Fewer than 20 percent wanted a coalition or a government of national unity, as Macron had suggested to some of the party leaders during the last couple of days.
The president retains control over foreign policy. Macron heads on Thursday to a series of global summits expected to focus on the war in Ukraine.