France faces battle to form new government after Macron gamble fails

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France on Monday was faced with a difficult battle to form a new government after parliamentary elections, called by President Emmanuel Macron to reshape the political landscape, failed to open a clear path towards a majority.

Leaders from the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) -- which came top in the vote, beating both Macron’s centrists and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) -- scrambled to promise they would name a candidate for prime minister this week.

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Many were overjoyed by the outcome, cheering crowds gathered in eastern Paris to celebrate Le Pen’s defeat, but none of the main groups commands an overall majority, leaving this highly-centralized world power in limbo three weeks before Paris hosts the Olympics.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal is due to submit his resignation to Macron on Monday but has also made it clear that he is ready to stay on in a caretaker capacity as weeks of political and financial uncertainty loom. The

Paris stock exchange opened 0.49 percent down.

“Is this the biggest crisis of the Fifth Republic?” asked Gael Sliman, president of the Odoxa polling group, referring to the period after 1958. “Emmanuel Macron wanted clarification with the dissolution, now we are in total uncertainty. A very thick fog.”

Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure said the NFP’s parties would choose a candidate to replace Attal, “either by consensus or a vote,” this week, but the choice will be difficult.

The biggest NFP component is the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) of firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, a divisive figure who is anathema to the right and center and has even alienated many on the left.

He would struggle to win allies beyond his own party, but National Assembly member Mathilde Panot from LFI insisted that the man who credits himself with reviving the French left must be in consideration for prime minister.

He’s “absolutely not disqualified” Panot told broadcaster LCI.

The unprecedented situation is taking shape just as Macron is due to be out of the country for most of the week, taking part in the NATO summit in Washington.

Divided parliament


After they won the June 30 first round of the elections by a clear margin, Sunday’s results were a major disappointment for Le Pen’s RN, even if her forces will boast about their biggest ever contingent in parliament.

Macron’s centrist alliance will have dozens fewer members of parliament, but held up better than expected and could even end up in second when seat numbers are confirmed.

The left-wing NFP -- formed last month after Macron called snap elections -- brought the previously deeply divided Socialists, Greens, Communists and the hard-left LFI together.

Projections by major polling agencies showed the NFP likely to be the largest bloc in the new National Assembly with 177 to 198 seats, Macron’s alliance on 152 to 169 seats and the RN on 135 to 145 seats.

That would put no group near the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority and it remains unclear how a new government could be formed.

Macron, who has yet to speak in public about the projections, is calling for “prudence and analysis of the results,” said an aide, asking not to be named.

In key individual battles, Le Pen’s sister Marie-Caroline narrowly lost out on being a lawmaker, but former president Francois Hollande will return to frontline politics as a Socialist member of parliament.

‘Muddle’


Only one week ago, some polls had indicated the RN could win an absolute majority, with Le Pen’s 28-year-old lieutenant Jordan Bardella becoming prime minister.

Instead, he expressed fury.

Bardella dubbed the local electoral pacts that saw the left and centrists join forces to avoid splitting the anti-RN vote as an “alliance of dishonor.”

He said it had thrown France “into the arms of Jean-Luc Melenchon’s extreme left.”

Le Pen, who plans to launch a fourth bid for the presidency in 2027, declared: “The tide is rising. It did not rise high enough this time, but it continues to rise and, consequently, our victory has only been delayed.”

The question for France now is if this alliance of last resort can support a stable government, dogged by a still substantial RN bloc in parliament led by Le Pen herself as she prepares a 2027 presidential bid.

Risk analysis firm Eurasia Group said there was “no obvious governing majority” in the new parliament.

“It may take many weeks to resolve the muddle while the present government manages current business.”

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