World

French parties begin talks on forming government after chaotic election

Sunday’s election left no faction even close to the majority needed to form a government.

The group of elected parliamentarians of the France Unbowed party gather inside the National Assembly (Michel Euler/AP)
The group of elected parliamentarians of the France Unbowed party gather inside the National Assembly (Michel Euler/AP) (Michel Euler/AP)

Newly elected lawmakers have arrived at France’s lower house of parliament for talks aimed at forming a government after a chaotic election result left the legislature split among left, centre and far-right parties.

President Emmanuel Macron has asked his Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to continue handling day-to-day affairs, less than three weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics.

Mr Macron leaves on Wednesday for a Nato summit in Washington.

Sunday’s election left no faction even close to the majority needed to form a government, raising the risk of paralysis for the European Union’s second-largest economy.

Members of the France Unbowed party clench their fists inside the National Assembly (Michel Euler/AP)
Members of the France Unbowed party clench their fists inside the National Assembly (Michel Euler/AP) (Michel Euler/AP)

While a fractured parliament is not uncommon in Europe, the situation is unprecedented in France’s modern history.

Leaders of the leftist coalition, the New Popular Front, which won the most seats, say they should form a new government.

The three main parties in the coalition — the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialists and the Greens — began negotiations to find a candidate for prime minister.

The New Popular Front “is the leading Republican force in this country and it is therefore its responsibility to form a government… to implement the public policies expected by the French people”, Green lawmaker Cyrielle Chatelain said.

Hard-left lawmaker Mathilde Panot said: “France Unbowed lawmakers are going into the National Assembly not as an opposition force… but as a force that intends to govern the country.”

Their talks are complicated by internal divisions. Some are pushing for a hard-left figure while others, closer to the centre-left, prefer a more consensual personality.

France’s prime minister is accountable to parliament and can be ousted through a no-confidence vote.

Members of France Unbowed and the Greens arrived on Tuesday morning at the National Assembly. The Socialist lawmakers, who include former president Francois Hollande, were to gather in the afternoon.

Far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen speaks to reporters (Louise Delmotte/AP)
Far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen speaks to reporters (Louise Delmotte/AP) (Louise Delmotte/AP)

The top negotiator for the Socialist party, Johanna Rolland, said that the future prime minister will not be Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the divisive hard-left founder of France Unbowed who has angered many moderates.

Speaking on France 2 television on Tuesday, she suggested the leftist coalition could possibly work with centre-left members of Mr Macron’s alliance. “We will be open,” she said.

According to official results, all three main blocs fell far short of the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly, the most powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

The results showed just over 180 seats for the New Popular Front leftist coalition followed by Mr Macron’s centrist alliance, with more than 160 seats.

The far-right National Rally, the party of Marine Le Pen, and its allies were restricted to third place, although their more than 140 seats were still way ahead of the party’s previous best showing of 89 seats in 2022.

Mr Macron has three years remaining of his presidential term.