France elections: Macron refuses PM Attal's resignation with less than 3 weeks left for Paris Olympics

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal had said he would remain in office if needed but offered his resignation Monday morning. Macron immediately asked him to stay on

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Shailesh Khanduri
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Emmanuel Macron Gabriel Attal

Emmanuel Macron (L); Gabriel Attal (R)

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron refused the resignation of the country’s prime minister, asking him on Monday to remain temporarily as the head of the government after chaotic election results left the government in limbo.

French voters split the legislature on the left, centre and far right, leaving no faction even close to the majority needed to form a government. The results from Sunday’s vote raised the risk of paralysis for the European Union’s second-largest economy.

Macron gambled that his decision to call snap elections would give France a “moment of clarification,” but the outcome showed the opposite, less than three weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics, when the country will be under an international spotlight.

France’s main share index opened with a dip, but quickly recovered, possibly because markets had feared an outright victory for the far right or the leftist coalition.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal had said he would remain in office if needed but offered his resignation Monday morning. Macron, who named him just seven months ago, immediately asked him to stay on “to ensure the stability of the country.” Macron’s top political allies joined the meeting with Attal at the presidential palace.

Attal on Sunday made clear that he disagreed with Macron’s decision to call the surprise elections. The results of two rounds of voting left no obvious path to form a government for either the leftist coalition that came in first, Macron’s centrist alliance, or the far right.

Newly elected and returning lawmakers were expected to gather at the National Assembly to begin negotiations in earnest.

Macron himself will leave later in the week for a NATO summit in Washington.

Political deadlock could have far-ranging implications for the war in Ukraine, global diplomacy and Europe’s economic stability. Still, at least one leader said the results were a relief.

According to official results released early Monday, all three main blocs fell far short of the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

The results showed just over 180 seats for the New Popular Front leftist coalition, which placed first, ahead of Macron’s centrist alliance, with more than 160 seats. Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and its allies were restricted to third place, although their more than 140 seats were still way ahead of the party’s previous best showing of 89 seats in 2022.

Macron has three years remaining on his presidential term.

In announcing his resignation, Attal made clearer than ever his disapproval of Macron’s shock decision to call the election, saying “I didn’t choose this dissolution” of the outgoing National Assembly, where the president’s centrist alliance used to be single biggest group, albeit without an absolute majority.

Unlike other countries in Europe that are more accustomed to coalition governments, France doesn’t have a tradition of lawmakers from rival political camps coming together to form a majority. France is also more centralized than many other European countries, with many more decisions made in Paris. (AP)

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