Leaders of France’s opposition parties all agree that it is necessary to avoid political deadlock and must now learn to compromise, Emanuel Macron said on Wednesday as he faces the biggest crisis of his career and an unprecedented political deadlock. after losing control of Parliament.
In his first comments since his centrist grouping fell more than 40 seats short of an outright majority in Sunday’s general election, Macron said that cross-party agreements had to be found and that he would strive for a working majority in the coming weeks.
“I cannot ignore the fractures, the deep divisions that run through our country and are reflected in the composition of the new [national] Assembly,” Macron said in a televised address on Wednesday evening.
Macron had enjoyed full control of Parliament during his first term from 2017. But the voters who reelected him president in April delivered a hung parliament on Sunday, furious at soaring inflation and his perceived indifference.
“We will have to clarify over the next few days how much responsibility and cooperation the various formations in the National Assembly are willing to take on.”
A historic surge in Marine Le Pen’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Rally made her the largest single opposition party.
A left-wing party alliance also made strong gains, above all left-wing extremist Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party, which with around 72 seats is now the third largest party in parliament. Others in the Left Alliance are the Socialists and the Greens.
Le Pen, who finished second to Macron in April’s presidential election after pledging to reduce VAT on fuel and ban the Muslim headscarf from all public spaces, triumphantly welcomed her new party group to the National Assembly on Wednesday. With 89 new members, it is the highest number of far-right MPs in the French parliament in modern history.
“Millions of French people have been deprived of fair representation in Parliament for decades, but today they are represented,” she said.
Le Pen’s party has performed poorly in parliamentary elections in the past when the two-round vote failed to provide for proportional representation, but this time it bucked that trend.
The new far-right MPs included a significant number of local councillors, proving that the far-right has successfully spread at grassroots level across France, beyond its core areas in the post-industrial north-east and its stronghold in the south. There was an upswing for the extreme right in the South West and Gironde, in some areas traditionally held by the left. They partially expanded into Normandy, Burgundy, central France, the north-east and over part of the Mediterranean coast.
Le Pen claimed her MPs had included new profiles that better represented French society. The new MPs from her party included three police officers, three former journalists and a carer for the elderly.
A new far-right MP for Normandy was Katiana Levavasseur, a supermarket cleaner. The 52-year-old said she wanted to “defend the employment of unskilled workers in France who, like me, get up early in the morning to earn €11.75 an hour”. She described herself as living proof “that you can start from scratch and end up in Parliament”.
A 29-year-old delivery driver, Jorys Bovet, was voted in for the far right in the Allier in central France. “I’m from the real world. I’ve been working since I was 16,” he told local newspaper La Montagne. “I see the cost of living crisis, everyone is taxed, people have had enough.”
Far-right José Beaurain, 50, also from the working class, was the first blind MP to enter Parliament. He used to work in a music store as a piano tuner and was a former French bodybuilding runner-up. He lost his eyesight completely in 2008 due to a genetic condition and told Le Parisien this week: “I wasn’t elected because of it, I haven’t talked about it in the press, but it’s a big reason for me to be proud. It proves that everyone, even with a disability, can have dreams and ambitions.”
Le Pen’s party, which has immediately set about preparing the next presidential election five years from now at the end of Macron’s last term, hopes to use parliament as a vehicle to secure respectability and visibility as other parties continue to accuse it of racism and anti-Muslim who says his anti-immigration manifesto to keep France for the French is unconstitutional.
“We will be a firm opposition, but also a responsible opposition, respectful of the institutions and always constructive,” Le Pen said.
The heavily indebted party is also at risk of a large cash injection from its new parliamentary group, which is expected to help it pay off an outstanding loan from a Russian bank taken out for the 2014 election campaign.
In a separate development on Wednesday, French prosecutors said they were investigating a junior minister after two allegations of rape were made against her. The allegations date back to when Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, the Secretary of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, was working as a gynaecologist, according to French magazine Marianne.
The Paris Hospital Service said it was not aware of any complaints against her. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment, AFP reported.