Macron keeps France's prime minister in place for 'stability of the country' after chaotic election

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

PARIS (AP) — President Emmanuel Macron refused the resignation of France's prime minister, asking him on Monday to remain temporarily as the head of the government after a chaotic election result left the government in limbo.

Voters split the legislature on the left, center 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 an early election 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.

The French stock market fell upon opening before quickly recovering, 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, which ended after about 90 minutes.

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

Newly elected and returning lawmakers on Monday gathered at the National Assembly to begin negotiations over a new government in earnest. Macron himself will leave midweek for a NATO summit in Washington.

Talks over who should form a new government and who should lead the foreign, interior and finance ministries among others, are expected to be extremely difficult and lengthy given that political parties negotiating a deal have diametrically opposing policies and contempt for one another.

“We are in a situation that is totally unprecedented," said Jean-Didier Berger, a newly elected lawmaker from the conservative Republicans party.

Aurélien Rousseau, a newly elected lawmaker from the New Popular Front and former minister in Macron's government acknowledged disagreements within the leftist alliance over the government formation, but said the alliance could eventually reach an agreement.

“We need to build compromises, but we need to take time to discuss, to know what we agree on or disagree within the left,” Rousseau said.

Another New Popular Front lawmaker, Jérôme Guedj of the French Socialists party, said the leftist alliance won't buckle under pressure to name its candidate for the next prime minister who could govern alongside Macron.

“This is a confusing moment (and) we’re not going to add anxiety, unnecessary division at a moment when we need to find the right path," Guedj said.

Political deadlock could have far-ranging implications for Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, global diplomacy and Europe's economic stability. Still, at least one leader said the result was a relief.

“In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a former European Council president, posted on X late Sunday.

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 most powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

The results showed just over 180 seats for the New Popular Front leftist coalition, which placed first, to beat Macron's centrist alliance, with more than 160 seats. The far-right National Rally part of Marine Le Pen 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.

Rather than rallying behind Macron as he'd hoped, millions took the vote as an opportunity to vent anger about inflation, crime, immigration and other grievances, including his style of government.

The New Popular Front's leaders immediately pushed Macron to give them the first chance to form a government and propose a prime minister. The faction pledges to roll back many of Macron's headline reforms, embark on a costly program of public spending, and take a tougher line against Israel because of the war with Hamas. But it's not clear, even among the left, who could lead the government without alienating crucial allies.

“We need someone who offers consensus,” said Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist Party, which joined the leftist coalition and was still sorting out how many seats it won on Monday.

Macron warns that the left’s economic program of many tens of billions of euros in public spending, partly financed by taxes on wealth and hikes for high earners, could be ruinous for France, already criticized by EU watchdogs for its debt.

A hung parliament is unknown territory for modern France, and many people reacted with a mix of relief and apprehension.

“What pollsters and the press were telling us made me very nervous so it’s a huge relief. Big expectations as well,” said Nadine Dupuis, a 60-year-old legal secretary in Paris. “What’s going to happen? How are they going to govern this country?”

The political agreement between the left and center to block the National Rally was largely successful. Many voters decided that keeping the far right from power was more important than anything else, backing its opponents in the runoff, even if they weren’t from the political camp they usually support.

“Disappointed, disappointed,” said far-right supporter Luc Doumont, 66. “Well, happy to see our progression, because for the past few years we’ve been doing better.”

Le Pen, who was expected to make a fourth run for the French presidency in 2027, said the elections laid the groundwork for “the victory of tomorrow.”

Racism and antisemitism marred the electoral campaign, along with Russian disinformation campaigns, and more than 50 candidates reported being physically attacked — highly unusual for France.

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.

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Barbara Surk in Nice, and John Leicester, Diane Jeantet and Nicolas Garriga in Paris, contributed to this report.

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Follow AP's global election coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/global-elections

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