PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron held talks Tuesday with France’s main party leaders in a bid to show he is open to dialogue after his centrist alliance failed to win an absolute majority in parliamentary elections.
The meetings at the Elysee presidential palace come after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne formally offered her resignation Tuesday, in line with the tradition after parliamentary elections. Macron immediately rejected the offer and maintained the current government.
Macron’s Together! alliance won 245 seats in Sunday's parliamentary elections — 44 seats short of a majority in the National Assembly, France’s most powerful house of parliament.
The leftist Nupes coalition won 131 seats to become the main opposition force. The far-right National Rally got 89 seats in the 577-member chamber, up from its previous eight.
Macron held successive meetings with opposition members, including the president of The Republicans, Christian Jacob, the head of the Socialist Party, Olivier Faure, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Macron also met with representatives of his own party and allied movements. Other meetings were scheduled Wednesday.
Talks were aiming at finding “potential constructive solutions” to the situation, according to Macron’s office.
Macron has not publicly commented on the elections’ results yet.
Instead, in his first public appearance since the elections, he appeared Tuesday evening on a stage set up in the Elysee courtyard for France’s Music Day, for a show in front of about 2,000 guests. Macron said that while being busy all day with politics, it was now time for entertainment. “Be happy!” he told the crowd.
With the most seats at the National Assembly, his government still has the ability to rule, but only by bargaining with legislators. To prevent potential deadlock, Macron's party and allies may try to negotiate on a case-by-case basis with lawmakers from the center-left and from the conservative party.
Macron was reelected in April on an agenda including measures to boost purchasing power, tax cuts and raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 65.
After her meeting with Macron, Le Pen said that he “listens,” but “does he hear? We’ll see.”
She said she told him her party’s MPs will be part of the opposition but don’t want to do “systematic obstruction.”
“If measures are being proposed that go in the right direction ... we will vote for them. If they go in the wrong direction, we will amend them. If they are not amended as we want, then we will oppose them,” she said.
On his way out of the Elysee, Jacob said The Republicans, who hold 61 seats, won’t enter into any “pact or coalition” with Macron’s centrists. However, he opened the door to voting in favor of some measures if they are in line with his party’s platform.
He notably mentioned pension changes, since the conservatives are, like Macron, in favor of raising the retirement age.
The Socialist leader, Olivier Faure, told reporters “it’s possible to move forward” but “we won’t approve policies which would be contrary to commitments we made to the French.”
Faure advocated for a measure proposed by the leftist coalition to bring the monthly minimum salary from about 1,300 euros to 1,500 euros.
Macron will also soon need to handle another issue : a government reshuffle. Three ministers — out of the 15 who were running for reelection — have lost their seats and won't be able to stay in the government under the rules he set.
While keeping him busy at home, the situation at parliament is not expected to destabilize Macron's international agenda. The French president holds substantial powers over foreign policy, European affairs and defense.
Macron is to travel to Brussels for a European summit scheduled on Thursday and Friday. He will then head to a G-7 meeting in Germany next week, followed by a NATO summit in Spain and a brief visit to Portugal.