MS Risk Blog

French Ex-Prime Minister Offers to Back Macron in Elections, but Told he Must First Join Party

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Last week, French president-elect Emmanuel Macron won an offer of support from Socialist ex-prime minister Manuel Valls as he and his aides worked on strategy ahead of parliamentary elections, which are seen as being crucial to his reform plans.

The 39-year-old centrist’s victory over the anti-European Union (EU) Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) on 7 May brought relief to France’s EU allies and to financial markets, however he now faces the task of securing a second election victory in June for his start-up party, which has now been renamed “La Republique en marche” or “Republic on the Move,” in order to get the majority needed to implement his plans for economic recovery.

On 9 May, former prime minister Manuel Valls offered to stand for “En March” in the two-stage legislative elections in June, in what is the first high-profile defection since Mr Macron’s election win. The move could also be a boost for him. The following day, the president-elect’s camp announced that if the former prime minister wants to run for parliament, under its banner, he must officially join the party. The news effectively sends a signal to politicians to the left and the right of Mr Macron’s party that they cannot sit on the fence as they seek to position themselves for the elections, which will complete the political landscape for the next five years.

Successive centre-right and centre-left governments in the country have failed to pull France out of deep economic malaise, which includes slow growth, high unemployment of around 10 percent and dwindling competiveness.

While Mr Macron’s “En March” party currently has no seats in parliament, an opinion poll earlier this month predicted that it would emerge as the largest in the parliamentary elections, due to take place next month. A majority in parliament would provide Mr Macron with a decent chance of implementing a blueprint for lower state spending, high investment and reform of the tax, labour and pensions systems.

While candidates from both the right and the left failed to secure any wins in the general election, some leading centrist Republicans appear to be ready to override the party hierarchy and work closely with Mr Macron. One of them is former conservative prime minister Alain Juppe who recently told journalists in his power base in Bordeaux, “I am not envisaging systematic obstruction and head-on opposition (to Macron). We have to help France succeed and help vital reforms succeed.” However a strong element in The Republicans have a different strategy, as they hope to win a majority in the June elections and be able to name a conservative prime minister with whom Mr Macron would have to share power in a so-called “cohabitation.” However on past form in French politics, this has left an incumbent president unable to exert control over economic policy.