UPDATED: French National Assembly dissolution not on agenda for now – government spokesperson

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PARIS, June 20 (Reuters) – The dissolution of the National Assembly lower house of parliament is “not a topic for now”, French government spokesperson Olivia Gregoire told France Inter radio on Monday, after President Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority.

Asked if Elisabeth Borne could stay on as Prime Minister, Gregoire said: “Elisabeth Borne was re-elected (as a lawmaker), this has not been an issue. We will see in the coming hours. Right now this not an issue.”

Elisabeth Borne on Sunday said that her government will get to work from Monday to reach out to potential partners in order to rally a majority behind it and ensure stability in the euro zone’s second-biggest economy. 

Macron on Monday was faced with trying to salvage a ruling majority and with it his economic reform agenda, after voters punished his centrist ‘Ensemble’ alliance in France’s parliamentary election.

Final figures showed Macron’s centrist camp got 245 seats – short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority.

 French President Emmanuel Macron lost control of the National Assembly in legislative elections on Sunday, a major setback that could throw the country into political paralysis unless he is able to negotiate alliances with other parties.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp secured 245 out of 577 seats in the country’s parliamentary election, falling short of an absolute majority, according to final figures from the interior ministry.

Macron’s centrist Ensemble coalition, which wants to raise the retirement age and further deepen EU integration, was on course to end up with the most seats in Sunday’s election.

But they will be well short of the absolute majority needed to control parliament, near-final results showed.

A broad left-wing alliance was set to be the biggest opposition group, while the far-right scored record-high wins and the conservatives were likely to become kingmakers.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the outcome a “democratic shock” and added that if other blocs did not cooperate, “this would block our capacity to reform and protect the French.”

A hung parliament will require a degree of power-sharing and compromises among parties not experienced in France in recent decades. 

There is no set script in France for how things will now unfold. The last time a newly elected president failed to get an outright majority in parliamentary elections was in 1988.

“The result is a risk for our country in view of the challenges we have to face,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said, while adding that from Monday on, Macron’s camp will work to seek alliances.

Macron could eventually call a snap election if legislative gridlock ensues.

“The rout of the presidential party is complete and there is no clear majority in sight,” hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon told cheering supporters.

Leftwing Liberation called the result “a slap” for Macron, and economic daily Les Echos “an earthquake.”

ALLIANCES?

United behind Melenchon, leftwing parties were seen on course to triple their score from the last legislative election in 2017.

In another significant change for French politics, far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party could score a ten-fold increase in MPs with as many as 90-95 seats, initial projections showed. That would be the party’s biggest-ever representation in the assembly.

Macron became in April the first French president in two decades to win a second term, as voters rallied to keep the far-right out of power.

But, seen as out of touch by many voters, he presides over a deeply disenchanted and divided country where support for populist parties on the right and left has surged.

His ability to pursue further reform of the euro zone’s second-biggest economy hinges on winning support for his policies from moderates outside his alliance on both the right and left.

MODERATES?

Macron and his allies must now decide whether to seek an alliance with the conservative Les Republicains, who came fourth, or run a minority government that will have to negotiate bills with other parties on a case-by-case basis.

“There are moderates on the benches, on the right, on the left. There are moderate Socialists and there are people on the right who, perhaps, on legislation, will be on our side,” government spokeswoman Olivia Gregoire said.

French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after voting in Le Touquet, northern France, 19 June 2022. French voters are going to the polls in the final round of key parliamentary elections that will demonstrate how much legroom President Emmanuel Macron?s party will be given to implement his ambitious domestic agenda. EPA-EFE/Michel Spingler / POOL

Les Republicains’ platform is more compatible with Ensemble than other parties. The two together have a chance at an absolute majority in final results, which requires at least 289 seats in the lower house.

Christian Jacob, the head of Les Republicains, said his party will remain in the opposition but be “constructive”, suggesting case-by-case deals rather than a coalition pact.

The former head of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, and Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon lost their seats, in two major defeats for Macron’s camp.

Macron had appealed for a strong mandate during a bitter campaign held against the backdrop of a war on Europe’s eastern fringe that has tightened food and energy supplies and sent inflation soaring, eroding household budgets.

Melenchon’s Nupes alliance campaigned on freezing the prices of essential goods, lowering the retirement age, capping inheritance and banning companies that pay dividends from firing workers. Melenchon also calls for disobedience towards the European Union.

French President Emmanuel Macron casts his ballot in Le Touquet, northern France, 19 June 2022. EPA-EFE/Michel Spingler / POOL

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