Centrist French President elect Emmanuel Macron sought to woo conservative members of parliament to his cause on Friday and head off a row with an ally as he bids for victory in elections for parliament next month.
Macron, until last year economy minister in the outgoing Socialist administration, blew apart the traditional political boundaries of French politics on May 7 when he won the presidency under the banner of his own one-year-old Republic on the Move (REM) party.
His main task now is to try to secure enough seats for REM in the June parliamentary election to give him a majority to push through a set of business-friendly economic reforms.
On Thursday, he named 428 people — around half of whom had never held elected office before — to stand for REM in France’s 577 constituencies.
Among the names were also 24 defecting MPs from the outgoing Socialists and on Friday the party reached out to moderate conservatives to join the cause.
“There is a group among The Republicans (France’s conservatives) … saying ‘we want to be useful to the country, but we do not want to ‘Macronise’ ourselves,’ Macron’s head of candidate selection Arnaud Leroy said on BFM TV, naming a number of leading figures among The Republicans.
“We, being responsible people, are open to discussions. I am not closing any doors,” he said.
Juppe says no deal with Macron
In a sign of how sensitive the reconstructing of the French political landscape is, Alain Juppe, a moderate conservative ex-prime minister, swiftly denied on Twitter reports that he had struck a government deal with Macron.
“There is obviously no Juppe/Macron deal!!!!” Juppe said on his Twitter account.
RTL radio had minutes earlier reported that there was such a deal and that conservative Edouard Philippe, a lawmaker and mayor of Le Havre, would become prime minister.
Philippe and Richard Ferrand, secretary general of Macron’s REM party, have been touted over the past few days by French media as possible prime ministers.
An early promise
Macron has already made room in the parliament he wants to see for former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls. His team promised on Thursday not to put up a candidate against a man who represents a wing of the party whose political views are close to Macron’s.
REM has made clear the way is open for more deals of this kind with other leading Socialists from the party’s right wing and with left-leaning lawmakers among The Republicans.
In seats held by people who are potential allies it is holding back from putting forward a REM candidate, for the time being.
Macron, an ex-banker who was elected on May 7 with 65 percent of a run-off vote to beat the far right’s Marine Le Pen, will take over power this Sunday from Socialist President Francois Hollande at a ceremony at the Elysee Palace.
Thursday’s publication of Macron’s partial candidate list produced the first sign of tension within his camp since he was elected.
Gaspard Gantzer, communications adviser to outgoing President Francois Hollande, declined a nomination on Friday after constituents of the region he was due to represent criticized the move, Ferrand said late on Friday.
Francois Bayrou, a centrist who gave up his presidential bid to join Macron, told L’Obs magazine that the list contained only 35 names from his Modem party, whereas he and Macron had agreed it should have 120.
“We got him elected,” Bayrou told L’Obs. “This (candidate list) is a Socialist recycling operation.”
Ferrand responded to Bayrou’s complaint. “There was no set agreement,” he said on BFM TV, adding that there was still room for manoeuver given there are more constituencies to be assigned.