May 19. 2024. 2:15

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Macron to face headache in attempt to ‘enlarge’ parliamentary majority

As French President Emmanuel Macron seeks to shore up parliamentary support in the face of political crisis, some politicians are pushing for a formalised coalition between the presidential majority and the right-wing Les Republicains (LR).

The pension reform fallout has demonstrated that Macron’s relative majority – 250 MPs – necessitates a degree of compromise with the opposition, and is not sufficient for smooth governing.

An absolute majority, i.e. 289 deputies of the National Assembly, would facilitate the work of the government, which today has to find majorities on a case-by-case basis. This carries attendant risks, as shown with the pension reform, which was adopted without a vote by virtue of government’s constitutional powers – triggering a major political crisis.

Indeed, on Monday, Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government survived a motion of no-confidence by a margin of just nine votes after the government used a constitutional mechanism to bypass the National Assembly in pushing through its pension reform. Protestors and unions across the country have said that, as a result, the government has lost its democratic legitimacy.

To firm up the political backing for the Macronist government, some leaders of the presidential majority and the right (LR) have suggested that the two political families affirm an alliance by entering into a coalition agreement.

LR’s former leader Jean-François Copé has been pushing the idea since the parliamentary elections in June 2022. He reiterated his position at a meeting of the party’s strategic council on Tuesday (21 March).

On the side of the presidential majority, there are also calls for the formalisation of a coalition contract, such as Renaissance MP and chair of the Economic Affairs Committee Guillaume Kasbarian, who explained this necessity to EURACTIV.

“We need a coalition of priorities to broaden our political base beyond the current majority […] even if I see the difficulties,” said Edouard Philippe, former prime minister and president of the Horizons party, a partner in the presidential majority.

French government survives confidence vote, but political crisis continues

The two no-confidence votes tabled to topple French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government were rejected on Monday (20 March), keeping her in power for the time being. Despite this, the political crisis is far from over, MPs and observers note.

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Hard to find an agreement

But LR forming an alliance with the party seems impossible at this stage, as 19 of the 61 LR MPs voted in favour of overthrowing the government in the failed no-confidence vote at the start of the week.

Still, the presidential camp has “sought to enlarge the relative majority since the start of the legislature”, Renaissance MP Sylvain Maillard told EURACTIV – though this was rejected by the Republicans.

Picking Éric Ciotti, the man who partly campaigned in opposition to Macron, as party leader, further cements the party’s position against the ruling majority, another Renaissance MP recalls.

On the side of the Macronists, hesitancy remains about shifting further to the right. The agreement would increase the likelihood of a right-wing candidate being proposed as the next prime minister – a move that could alienate the left-wing side of the ruling majority.

“This is a question that arises,” acknowledged Renaissance MP Kasbarian.

Appeal to individuals

Another way for Macron to shore up his support base would be to appeal to individuals in Parliament to formalise their alliance with his group.

In a TV interview on Wednesday (22 March), Macron said he had asked his prime minister, Elisabeth Borne to “enlarge the majority” with “political individuals who, with their convictions, are ready to work with the majority” around a government programme.

Horizons MP Philippe said he would want such an expansion to also be open to left-wing elected representatives disappointed by the NUPES.

On the right, one MP – who is not pro-Macron – assured EURACTIV that “we need to take time to think, without decreeing in advance” whether to remain in opposition or support a government project.

“We don’t have a political culture of coalition like the Germans”, but “we won’t be able to hold on by moving forward text by text and we still have four years to go,” he said, unconvinced by the prospect of dissolution.

The Prime Minister’s office told AFP that she “will conduct consultations with the political forces” to “define the parliamentary calendar for the coming months and identify majorities text by text”.

La réforme des retraites suscite des réactions contrastées en Italie et en Allemagne