Explainer-Coalition or chaos? What lies ahead after France's election

France votes in the first round of the 2024 snap legislative elections

(Reuters) -President Emmanuel Macron has urged the mainstream parties in France's hung parliament to form a coalition able to muster a "solid" majority.

He broke his silence following Sunday's parliamentary election in a letter published in regional newspapers.

France's fractured parliament means the path to forming a government is littered with obstacles. A period of political uncertainty and instability lies ahead.

Here are some possible government formations:

MINORITY GOVERNMENT LED BY LEFT-WING NEW POPULAR FRONT

The New Popular Front's (NFP) surprise win in the legislative election delivered a stunning blow to Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally, which had been confident of victory. However, it finished well short of a working majority.

The NFP - made up of the French Communist Party, the hard-left France Unbowed, Greens and Socialist Party - says Macron must name a prime minister from among their ranks as it is the bloc with the largest number of National Assembly seats.

However, the hastily assembled bloc has been unable to put forward a consensus candidate. France Unbowed's pugnacious leader Jean-Luc Melenchon says a PM should come from its party but the more moderate Socialists have refused this.

NFP leaders have said they will come up with a name by the end of the week. However, a number of unaffiliated lawmakers could still join the bloc's composite parties, meaning the balance of power within it will not be known until parliament sits on July 18. That would mean the parties might not meet their own self-imposed deadline.

Macron's remarks suggest he will not name a premier from the NFP. In his letter, he called for a coalition to be formed by political forces with "republican values" - typically understood to exclude the hard left and far right.

A 'GRAND COALITION'

Macron is urging a broad coalition of mainstream parties, implicitly ruling out any involvement of right or left extremes.

Such a coalition could potentially span the French Communist Party on the left to the mainstream conservative Republicans (LR) party on the right.

Macron and many in the wider political class consider the Communist Party, which was a force in French politics in the decades after World War Two and has mayors in a number of towns across France, to be one that respects the republic and its democratic values. By contrast, France Unbowed is considered by critics to be an insurgent fringe party, something it denies.

But for its part, the LR has so far said it will not enter any coalition.

That leaves just one grouping able to form a majority, comprising Macron's centrist Together bloc, the Greens, the Socialists and the Communists.

If LR had a change of heart, moderate MPs belonging to LR, Together and the Socialist Party could also form a majority.

However, there has been no indication so far that the leftist parties are ready to split with France Unbowed and break the NFP alliance, and no sign of LR being willing to work with Macron's bloc.

HOW COMMON ARE COALITIONS IN FRENCH POLITICS?

France is not accustomed to the kind of post-election coalition-building common in northern European parliamentary democracies like Germany or the Netherlands.

Its Fifth Republic was designed in 1958 by war hero Charles de Gaulle to give large, stable parliamentary majorities to presidents, and that has created a confrontational political culture with no tradition of consensus and compromise.

WHAT IF NO AGREEMENT CAN BE FOUND?

That would be uncharted territory for France. The constitution says Macron cannot call new parliamentary elections for another 12 months.

Another possibility is a government of non-party technocrats that would manage day-to-day affairs but not oversee structural changes.

Modern-day France has never needed to resort to such an option. It would still require the backing of parliament and would be unlikely to secure the approval of lawmakers unless all other options had been exhausted.

(Reporting by Richard LoughEditing by Mark Heinrich)