France’s Left Appeals to Macron Allies in Coalition Maneuver

(Bloomberg) -- France’s Socialist party extended an olive branch to some lawmakers of Emmanuel Macron’s movement as political jockeying gained steam in the aftermath of a messy vote that left parliament divided.

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“We are clear-sighted but not sectarian, so those who want to meet us on these bases — I’m thinking, notably, about left-wing Macronists — we’ll be open,” Johanna Rolland, the Socialists’ chief negotiator and mayor of Nantes, in western France, told France 2 on Tuesday.

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She cited the lack of doctors and local police as consensual topics a new majority could work on, suggesting parliament could agree on legislation on a case-by-case basis.

The push shows that the left-wing alliance — which includes the Socialists, the Greens and the far-left France Unbowed — is seeking to take the initiative after their surprise win in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. The vote created a complex split in the National Assembly, which opens the door to unprecedented deal-making to form a ruling coalition.

Rolland cautioned that talks among members of the New Popular Front to propose a candidate for prime minister — which Macron isn’t obligated to accept — could last for a while. Her assertion indicates the complexity of the discussions, as others on the left have said the aim was to make a proposal this week or early next week.

After pushing his country into political disarray with snap elections, the choice for prime minister is nearly intractable. Macron needs to find a candidate who can survive no-confidence votes in a divided lower house of parliament. His power base though has shrunk further, squeezed between Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and the resurgent left.

Despite its surprising comeback, the left is more than 100 seats short of a majority and needs to expand its reach to other parties if it wants to have a shot at ruling the country. But far-left lawmakers are unlikely to agree to work with Macron, who has called France Unbowed extreme and accused the pro-Palestine group of alleged antisemitism.

On Tuesday, Rolland ruled out France Unbowed’s controversial leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon, for the prime minister post.

“No one at the New Popular Front can say, by decree, it will be this person or that person — we need appeasement and discussion,” she said, adding that there would be a vote for the alliance’s premiership candidate.

While the Greens and Socialists gained seats compared with the previous elections in 2022, Melenchon’s France Unbowed was flat, raising questions over his momentum and his ability to appeal to moderates. Late Monday, the 72-year-old appeared to moderate his aggressive stance, saying that ratings agencies and Franco-German relations are important.

“We need stability,” he told LCI television, papering over differences within the left alliance over his personality and even with the center over the New Popular Front’s program.

Lawmakers could find compromises on some measures like the wealth tax, Melenchon said, while also reaffirming that the New Popular Front still stands. In its campaign, the alliance promised an increase in the minimum wage and higher taxes on businesses and wealthy people.

Francois Bayrou, a Macron’s ally and head of the MoDem centrist party, also said last night on LCI that the contours of a government should span the left without France Unbowed and the right excluding the National Rally. He reiterated his position that the France Unbowed program is “dangerous.”

For his part, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said all sides should try to build a “majority of projects” that would continue to defend supply-side policies rather than spending to juice demand. Compromises could involve doing more to boost personal incomes by reducing the tax burden on wages, or strengthening mechanisms to share profits with workers.

“I invite all the Socialists and social democrats to come back to this supply side policy they defended for years,” he said during a briefing with journalists on Tuesday. “We are open and ready.”

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who will serve in the role until a successor is appointed, is meeting party members on Tuesday amid expectations that Macron’s group will seek to forge a centrist coalition with elements of the New Popular Front and the center-right. His room to maneuver though may be limited.

While Macron’s group performed better than expected on Sunday — coming second with 168 seats — it owes a lot of seats to left-wing candidates dropping out in tactical moves to avoid splitting the vote and handing wins to Le Pen’s group, which came third. This could incentivize the so-called “Republican front” against the far right to work together despite divisions.

“I do remember that there are right-wing people who have voted” for the left to prevent Le Pen from gaining power, Rolland said. “We can’t complain that Emmanuel Macron forgot that the left has voted for him every time in the runoff, and now, operating by dictate.”

A Toluna-Harris Interactive survey of voting intentions carried out after polling stations closed on Sunday shows Le Pen would finish in front in the first round of the next French presidential election in 2027 — well ahead of potential rivals in the center and on the left.

--With assistance from Tara Patel and William Horobin.

(Adds comment from Finance Minister in 14th paragraph.)

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