Newly re-elected President Macron faces one more challenge to give his new five-year term solid footing: to unite political parties in a force strong enough to guarantee him winning a majority of MPs in the Assemblée nationale in June’s legislative elections.
Mr Macron is said to be willing to create a new party, bringing together people with politics ranging from “social democracy to Gaullism and ecologists”, aiming to split parliament between a ‘progressive’ camp and ‘nationalists’.
This comes as La République En Marche (LREM), the party he created to run for office in 2017, is suffering a loss of impetus with several MPs saying they will not seek re-election.
Public want president and prime minister in harmony
Political commentator Luc Gras said: “This would signal a desire to unite political parties better, which is in line with previous statements he has made.”
Mr Gras said he thought a majority of French people were likely to vote for candidates united under the presidential banner so as to give the president full power in the Assemblée nationale, as has been the case since 2002.
This is opposed to a situation where power is split with a president and assembly of different politics.
Chirac reduced presidency term to five years
The close alignment of legislative elections with the presidential election was the underlying objective of an amendment brought forward by Jacques Chirac that looked to reduce the presidential term from seven to five years in an effort to avoid political ‘cohabitation’.
In the past, the seven-year-term often resulted in presidents leading the country with prime ministers from conflicting parties as a result of defeats in legislative elections.
It happened twice during François Mitterrand’s terms in 1986 and 1993, and once during Jacques Chirac’s first term in 1997.
Movements are creating parties to align with Macron
Members of the Parti Socialiste have created a party called Fédération Progressiste, aligned with Mr Macron, in an effort to block the far right from gaining assembly seats in the legislatives. Some of the conservative Les Républicains may follow suit.
Fédération Progressiste thus joins the ranks of parties that are already broadly aligned with Mr Macron, including his own LREM, as well as François Bayrou’s MoDem, former prime minister Edouard Philippe’s Horizons, plus Agir, Territoires de Progrès and En Commun.
President Macron would not be the first president in office to make changes for more support.
Chirac created new party during 2002 election
Mr Chirac ran his first-round 2002 presidential campaign as the Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) before creating the new Union pour la Majorité Présidentielle (UMP) between the two rounds to unite right and centre political forces against Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of Marine.
The UMP won 365 seats at the Assemblée nationale, well above the 279 seats needed for a majority – but there was a record-high abstention of 36.6%.
The party shortly afterwards switched names again, becoming Union pour un Mouvement Populaire.
Macron does not have traditional party base
Christophe Sente, political scientist and member of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès think-tank, said that voter turnout figures and his second round score were likely to affect how effectively Mr Macron could implement his policies.
Although Mr Macron was careful not to alienate various voters from the Right to the Left, Mr Sente said he could suffer from not creating a traditional party with a strong local base, unlike the approaches of Les Républicains or the Parti Socialiste.
He said this could result in too few MPs at the Assemblée and a forced alliance with Les Républicains as Mr Macron has already absorbed many grassroots socialists into his political fold.
Mr Macron told Le Figaro he would not, contrary to rumours, move the election any earlier than June to win a more comfortable majority.
He wanted to be able to summon both chambers when needed to face the consequences of Ukraine, which would not be possible if he dissolved the assembly for an early election.