French Prime Minister Valls and Economy Minister Macron leave the Elysee Palace in Paris
French president-elect Emmanuel Macron won an offer of support from Socialist ex-prime minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday as he and his aides worked on strategy ahead of parliamentary elections that will be crucial to his ambitious reform plans.
The 39-year-old centrist’s emphatic election victory over the anti-European Union Marine Le Pen of the National Front on Sunday brought relief to France’s EU allies and financial markets.
But, once he has moved into the Elysee Palace next week, Macron faces the task of securing a second election victory in June for his start-up party, now renamed “En Marche la République” or “Republic on the Move”, in order to get the majority needed to implement his plans for economic recovery.
Successive center-right and center-left governments have failed to pull France out of deep economic malaise which includes slow growth, high unemployment of around 10 percent and dwindling competitiveness.
Macron’s “En Marche” party currently has no seats in parliament, though an opinion poll last week predicted it would emerge as the largest in the parliamentary elections next month.
A majority would provide Macron with a decent chance of implementing a blueprint for lower state spending, higher investment and reform of the tax, labor and pensions systems.
Politicians from the traditional parties in France have taken on the air of survivors from a ship-wreck following Macron’s triumph which in particular dealt a death blow to the Socialists. Their candidate, Benoit Hamon, secured only six per cent of the vote in the first round on April 23.
Some key members of the centrist arm of The Republicans appear ready to override the party hierarchy and work closely with Macron.
But a strong element in The Republicans is eyeing the possibility of a power-sharing arrangement with him in government, if the conservatives perform well in June. On past form in French politics this leaves an incumbent president unable to control economic policy.
Tuesday’s offer by Valls to stand for “En Marche” in the two-stage legislative elections in June is the first high-profile defection since Macron’s election win and could be a boost for him.
As a pro-business prime minister under outgoing President Francois Hollande, Valls is a kindred spirit of Macron who worked in his government as economy minister.
But Macron will be cautious about inviting too many prominent former Socialists into his movement as that would lend ammunition to conservative opponents portraying his administration as a continuation of Hollande’s unpopular rule.