(Bloomberg) -- President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged he’d have to compromise and negotiate with rivals, in his first public address to the French people since losing his outright majority in parliament.
“We must collectively learn how to govern and legislate in a different way. Build new compromises through dialog, listening and respect,” Macron said in a televised speech Wednesday night. “This is what you wished for, and I have taken note.”
On Sunday, Macron became the first newly elected French president in two decades to fail to win an absolute majority of seats in the lower house, amid strong gains by the far right and radical left. That means he’ll be forced to abandon his top-down leadership style and forge alliances -- whether via a coalition or on a case-by-case basis -- in order to pass legislation.
Macron said it was up to rival political parties to say just how far they were willing to go to in terms of cooperation with his party.
While Macron’s ability to pass laws in France is now hindered, his status as president is unaffected. He remains in charge of foreign policy and defense, as well holding other powers such as the right to pardon, regardless of whether or not his party controls parliament.
The 44-year-old centrist has been meeting with leaders of the main parties that won seats in Sunday’s election to try to find potential partners. He even spoke with Marine Le Pen, the National Rally leader who came a strong second in April’s presidential election. Her party made record gains in parliament, winning 89 seats.
The idea of holding talks with Le Pen is controversial among the members of Macron’s alliance, but is gaining traction, according to a person familiar with cabinet discussions. A spokesperson for the Elysee palace didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read more: How Emboldened Far-Right Is Changing French Politics
Le Pen has already rejected a formal alliance with Macron’s camp. So did the head of the Republican party, which obtained 61 seats in the 577-strong National Assembly, as well as Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of a left-wing coalition, which got 131 seats.
Macron won 245 seats, more than any other group but fewer than when he was first elected in 2017. His popularity has suffered amid protests over economic inequality, labor reform and Covid restrictions.
“I can’t ignore the fractures, the deep divisions that run across our country and that are reflected in the composition of the National Assembly,” Macron said in the speech.
A poll published on Wednesday found that 71% of French adults surveyed said Macron’s failure to get a majority in the lower house was good for democracy, and would force him to make compromises and negotiate with other political parties.
Critics say the president’s predicament is of his own doing, since he blew up France’s traditional two party system with his centrist run, weakening the Republicans and Socialists and creating a vacuum that allowed the far right and far left to thrive.
Earlier this week, Macron rejected Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s resignation offer. His rivals have been calling for her to leave her post to take responsibility for Macron’s poor performance on Sunday. Borne was elected in Normandy, beating a 22-year-old left-wing student by a narrow margin.
Borne will have to go eventually because she lacks the political stature to face a rocky lower house, the person familiar with cabinet discussions said. Melenchon has said he wants the job, but Macron had previously made clear that he didn’t want that.
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