French President Macron urges mainstream coalition

French President Emmanuel Macron has called on mainstream parties to join forces to form a solid majority in the National Assembly, in his first public comments since a snap election delivered parliamentary gridlock.

The vote, which Macron unexpectedly called after losing to the nationalist populist National Rally (RN) in European elections, has plunged France into uncharted waters, with three politically divergent blocs and no obvious path to forming a government.

In a letter to regional newspapers, the deeply unpopular Macron urged mainstream parties with "republican values" to form a governing coalition and said he hoped to pick a prime minister from such a grouping.

"Let us place our hope in the ability of our political leaders to demonstrate sense, harmony and calm in your interest, and that of the country," he wrote.

"It is in the light of these principles that I will decide on the appointment of the prime minister."

The New Popular Front (NFP), a hastily assembled alliance of the hard-left France Unbowed party and the Socialist, Green and Communist parties, unexpectedly won the most seats in Sunday's vote but not a majority.

Macron's centrist camp came second and the RN third after third-placed candidates from the left and centre withdrew from the run-off to avoid splitting the anti-RN vote, scuppering the far right's hopes of winning a majority and forming a government.

It would be customary for Macron to call on the biggest parliamentary group, in this case the progressive bloc, to form a government but nothing in the constitution obliges him to do so.

Macron did not explicitly call for the RN or France Unbowed to be excluded from a governing coalition but his mention of "republican values" is typically understood to exclude parties on the extremes of the political spectrum.

Several France Unbowed lawmakers reacted to Macron's letter by saying that he should accept the left-wing alliance's pick for prime minister, when it has agreed on one, and allow the bloc to form a government.

"The best he can do for the country at this stage is to allow the group that won the most seats, the New Popular Front, to govern. Any other machinations would be truly problematic and dangerous for democracy," said one of them, Eric Coquerel, on LCI television.

Financial markets, the European Commission and France's euro zone partners are all watching closely to see whether the impasse can be broken.

Options include a broad coalition, a minority government or a technocratic government led by a non-politically affiliated person, which would seek to pass laws in parliament on a case-by-case basis with ad hoc agreements.

But any government could quickly be toppled by a confidence vote from the opposition if it had not secured sufficient support.

RN leader Jordan Bardella said Macron was to blame for the political paralysis.

"And now his message is: 'sort something out'. Irresponsible!" he posted on X, referring to Macron's letter.

Bardella's mentor, the long-time RN leader Marine Le Pen, has spent the last few years cleaning up the image of a party once known for racism and antiSemitism, and must now decide what strategy to adopt to win the 2027 presidential election.

She has framed the tactical withdrawals as an establishment plot to keep her party from power.

On Wednesday her tone hardened, when she drew parallels between an NFP politician's call for a march towards the prime minister's office and the assault on Capitol Hill by supporters of former US president Donald Trump.

She said the NFP has almost "subversive attitudes since they are calling for Matignon to be taken by force," referring to the prime minister's office.

"It's their assault on the Capitol."

She was reacting to a social media post by France Unbowed MP Adrien Quatennens, who accused Macron of wanting to "steal" the left's victory after he asked centrist Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to stay on for now, for stability.

Quatennens had called for "a big popular march" on Matignon.