© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) leader and Member of Parliament Marine Le Pen is escorted by France’s President Emmanuel Macron after talks at the presidential Elysee Palace, France, June 21, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS
By Myriam Rivet and Ingrid Melander
PARIS (Reuters) – Divisions emerged among Emmanuel Macron’s allies on whether his centrist alliance should rule out any deal at all with far-right MPs or could work with them on an ad hoc basis as the French president seeks an elusive majority following an election upset.
Some of Macron’s ministers have been unequivocal about not working with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), which secured its largest ever contingent of lawmakers in the elections and is now the second-biggest party in the lower house of parliament.
“Let me be absolutely clear, there cannot be any alliance, even a circumstantial one, with National Rally. We have no ideas in common with the National Rally,” European Affairs minister Clement Beaune told Europe 1 radio on Wednesday.
Others, such as Francois Bayrou, a close center-right ally, were less clear cut.
“There are people on the right, on the left, in the centre, on the extremes. They have the right to be there, there is nothing illegitimate. We have to find a harmony so that all these sensitivities enter into the symphony that is democracy,” he told France Inter radio.
And Celine Calvez, a lawmaker from Macron’s Ensemble alliance, told France 5 TV late on Monday, when asked if they could, on a case-by-case basis, seek RN votes to get some bills adopted: “When we need to have a majority and if it’s good for the French, we’ll try and seek those votes.”
Voters delivered what is for France a rare hung parliament, with Macron’s centrist alliance 44 seats short of an absolute majority, and the far right and a broad leftwing alliance battling to be the main opposition force, while the conservatives could be kingmakers.
Macron himself has still not said a word on the election, but his allies say they want to rally opposition lawmakers to find a workable majority as talks with parties continue.
Le Pen and the 88 other National Rally lawmakers elected arrived in parliament for the first time since the votes, with Le Pen hugging and kissing the newcomers.
“I am very moved and proud,” Le Pen told reporters. “We’ll work very hard, very seriously, unlike what you usually say about us.”
The far right had eight lawmakers in the previous assembly, and had never had more than the 35 elected in 1986, at a time when election rules were different and favoured smaller parties.
Le Pen went out of her way on Wednesday to say her party would have a constructive attitude.
“We’ve prepared for that for many years,” she said, adding that the RN would back the policy proposals it likes, modify others and reject the ones it does not approve – exactly what every mainstream opposition party has been saying since Sunday’s earthquake election.
With opposition parties rejecting, for now, any form of a coalition pact, Macron is looking at the prospect of having to enter into likely messy negotiations on every single bill – though much is still up in the air.