PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron threw the ball back into his opponents' court on Wednesday (Jun 22), asking them to think about how a fragmented parliament can legislate, as he acknowledged the current political crisis would mean working differently.
Macron had enjoyed full control over parliament during his first term from 2017. But voters who re-elected him as president in April delivered a hung parliament on Sunday, angry over rising inflation and his perceived indifference, meaning he must now find support from among his political foes.
Macron has spent two days consulting leaders of opposition parties, but there has been no sign that any of them is willing to help him build a working majority. That leaves him facing the prospect of having to enter into tricky negotiations on every single bill - although much is still up in the air.
"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 pre-recorded speech to the nation, his first comments since Sunday's election.
"The responsibility of the presidential majority is to broaden, build a coalition contract or by finding majorities text by text. We must learn to do things differently."
He ruled out a government of national unity.
Macron's silence since the election result had concerned some allies and opponents who had wanted him to speak before heading off for a week of international meetings, including European Union, G7 and NATO summits.
He said all sides would need to compromise, and that he wanted the political parties to clarify in the next 48 hours what decisions or actions they would be prepared to take.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc 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.
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 that includes the far left battling to be the main opposition force. The conservatives could be kingmakers.
An Elabe poll published on Wednesday showed that 44 per cent of French people supported the idea of bill-by-bill negotiations. Fewer than 20 per cent wanted a coalition or a government of national unity, as Macron had suggested to some of the party leaders over the last couple of days.
Divisions also emerged among Macron's allies on whether his centrist alliance should rule out any deal at all with far-right lawmakers or work with them on an ad hoc basis.
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 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.
Macron made no mention of the far-right in his speech.
Adding to the president's woes, the Paris public prosecutor's office said on Wednesday it had opened an investigation into allegations of rape against Secretary of State for Development and the Francophonie Chrysoula Zacharopoulou after two complaints were received.
Officials at her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.