Leaders of France’s opposition parties all agree on the need to avoid political crisis and must now learn to compromise, Emanuel Macron said on Wednesday as he faces the biggest crisis of his career and an unprecedented political stalemate after lost control of Parliament.
In his first comments since his centrist grouping, more than 40 seats fell below an absolute majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday, Macron said there should be agreements across party lines and that he would seek to establish a working majority over the next few weeks.
“I can not 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 televised speech Wednesday night.
Macron had had full control of parliament in 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.
“We will have to clarify over the next few days how much responsibility and cooperation the various assemblies of the National Assembly are prepared to accept.”
A historic rise from Marine Le Pen’s far right, the anti-immigration National Rally, made it the largest single opposition party.
A left-wing alliance of parties also made great strides, led by the hard-line left-wing Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party France Unbowed, which in about 72 seats is now the third largest party in parliament. Others in the Left Alliance include the Social Democrats and the Greens.
Le Pen, who came in second after Macron in the April presidential election after promising to cut VAT on fuel and ban the Muslim headscarf from all public spaces, triumphantly welcomed his new party group at the National Assembly on Wednesday. With 89 new members, it is the highest number of right-wing extremist legislators in the French parliament in modern history.
“Millions of French people were deprived of fair representation in parliament for decades, but today they are represented,” she said.
Le Pen’s party has historically fared poorly in the parliamentary elections, as the vote in two rounds did not include any proportional representation, but this time they received this trend.
The new approach of right-wing extremist members of parliament included a significant number of local councilors who proved that the far right had successfully expanded at grassroots level across France, beyond its heart areas in the post-industrial north-east and its stronghold in the south. There was an increase for the far right in the southwest and in the Gironde, in some areas traditionally held by the left. They partyed extensively in Normandy, Burgundy, central France, northeast and across a stretch of the Mediterranean coast.
Le Pen claimed that her MPs included new profiles that better represented French society. New lawmakers for her party included three police officers, three former journalists and a senior nurse.
A new right-wing extremist MP for Normandy was Katiana Levavasseur, a supermarket cleaner. The 52-year-old said she wanted to defend “the employment of France’s unskilled workers who, like me, get up early in the morning to earn € 11.75 an hour”. She described herself as a living proof of “that one can start from nothing and end up in parliament”.
A 29-year-old courier driver, Jorys Bovet, was elected to the far right wing of Allier in central France. “I’m from the real world. I’ve been working since I was 16,” he told the local newspaper, La Montagne. “I can see the cost of living crisis, everyone is being taxed, people have had enough.”
The far-right José Beaurain, 50, also from a working-class background, was the first blind MP to enter parliament. He used to work in a music store as a piano tuner and was a former vice master of bodybuilding for France. He lost his sight completely in 2008 due to a genetic condition and told Le Parisien this week: “I was not elected because of it, I did not talk about it in the press, but it is a great pride for me. It proves, that anyone, even with a disability, can have dreams and ambitions ”.
Le Pen’s party, which has immediately begun preparing for the next five-year presidential election at the end of Macron’s last term, hopes to use parliament as a means of ensuring respectability and visibility as other parties continue to to accuse it of being racist and anti-Muslim and says that its anti-immigration manifesto to keep France for the French is unconstitutional.
“We want to be a firm opposition, but also a responsible opposition, with respect for the institutions and always constructive,” Le Pen said.
The party, which is deep in debt, is also facing a major funding injection from its new parliamentary group, which will help it pay off an outstanding loan from a Russian bank, admitted to the 2014 election campaign.
In a separate development on Wednesday, French prosecutors said they were investigating a junior minister after two charges of rape were filed against her. The allegations go back to when Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, secretary of state for development, francophony and international partnerships, worked as a gynecologist, according to the French magazine Marianne.
The Paris hospital said it had no knowledge of any complaints against her. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment, AFP reported.