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Macron to make live TV address over political impasse

French President Emmanuel Macron - who has spent the last two days in meetings with political leaders after losing his parliamentary majority in the recent elections - will make a live TV address to the nation on Wednesday night.

Macron to make live TV address over political impasse
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

The Elysée has announced that Macron will address the nation live on TV at 8pm on Wednesday.

Since losing his majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, he has been holding talks with party leaders in an attempt to build a ‘national unity government’ that will allow him to pass legislation through parliament during the five years of his second term as president.

Macron and his team have the option of either forming an alliance with another group in parliament, or with ruling in a minority government and seeking alliances with MPs on a vote-by-vote basis.

The new parliament meets for the first time on Tuesday, June 28th, and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will set out the government’s priorities on July 5th, which is also when a motion of no-confidence against her government could be brought in parliament.

 The situation has called into question Macron’s plans for reform in his second term after his April presidential re-election — including a key measure to raise the retirement age — and risks denting his international stature.

Macron, who until now has kept a careful public silence on the deadlock, will make a televised address at 8pm, his office announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Over the past two days he has hosted rare talks at the Elysée Palace with opposition leaders to find a way out of the crisis.

He met the head of the far-right Rassemblement National Marine Le Pen on Tuesday, while the head of the left-wing Nupes alliance, hard-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, sent MP Adrien Quatennens, 32, to represent him in talks on Wednesday in a clear snub to the president.

The meetings so far appear to have made little headway, and Macron has also rejected an offer from under-fire PM Elisabeth Borne to resign.

“The unfindable compromise? Emmanuel Macron is trying to regain the initiative but no consensus has been found,” said the right-wing Le Figaro daily.

Macron’s intervention Wednesday will be crucial for indicating his future strategy, especially as he is to be distracted by foreign policy and outside of France for much of the next week.

He is due to attend an EU summit on Thursday and Friday, then the G7 summit in Germany from Sunday and then the NATO summit in Madrid from Tuesday.

Former prime minister Edouard Philippe, whose Horizons party is part of Macron’s alliance, told BFM television late Tuesday that a “grand coalition” should now be formed.

“We need to hear what the voters have said and take them seriously,” he said.

Communist party chief Fabien Roussel, who is part of the NUPES alliance and held talks with Macron on Tuesday, said after the meeting that the president had evoked a “government of national unity” as a way out of the impasse.

Speaking as she introduced new MPs at parliament on Wednesday, Le Pen said the president had floated the same idea with her.

Olivier Véran, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, told BFM on Wednesday that “all options” were on the table. But he ruled out working with Le Pen or Melenchon to find a majority.

The Local will be following the speech live from 8pm, click HERE for the latest updates.

Reader question: Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

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POLITICS

Tensions mount in France ahead of new pension strike

France braced on Monday for another day of mass protests and strikes over proposed pension reform, with the government of President Emmanuel Macron and its left-wing opponents trading blame for the expected disruption.

Tensions mount in France ahead of new pension strike

Around 1.1 million people took to the streets for the first strike day on January 19, according to official statistics, the biggest demonstrations since the last major round of pension reform under right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010.

A police source told AFP that security forces were expecting similarly sized crowds on Tuesday, with 1.2 million seen as the upper limit at 240 demonstrations around the country.

With unions warning more stoppages are to come, the strikes represent a major test for Macron as he seeks to implement a showcase policy of his second term in office.

The president’s ministers and their opponents are desperately seeking to sway public opinion ahead of what is expected to be a bitter and costly standoff over the next month.

READ MORE: LATEST: What to expect for Tuesday’s French pension strikes

Senior hard-left MP Mathilde Panot from the France Unbowed (LFI) party accused Macron and his ministers of being responsible for the stoppages that are expected to cripple public transport and other services again.

“They’re the ones who want to wreak havoc on the country,” she told BFM TV while also criticising comments by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin over the weekend as a “provocation.”

Darmanin, a close Macron ally, said Saturday that left-wing political parties were “only looking to screw up the country” and were defending “idleness and champagne socialism.”

Macron’s reputation

The most controversial part of the proposed reform is hiking the minimum retirement age to 64 from its current level of 62, which is the lowest level in any major European economy.

Macron made the change part of this re-election manifesto in April last year and he insists it is needed to guarantee the future financing of the pension system, which is forecast to tip into deficit in the next few years.

Opponents point out that the system is currently balanced and that the head of the independent Pensions Advisory Council recently told parliament that “pension spending is not out of control, it’s relatively contained.”

For pro-business Macron, who has repeatedly told French people they “need to work more”, failure to succeed with a signature proposal would severely undermine his credibility for the remainder of his second and last term in office, analysts say.

The government headed by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has signalled there is wiggle room on some measures as parliamentary committees started examining the draft law on Monday.

Conditions could be improved for people who started working very young, as well as for mothers who interrupted their careers to look after their children and for people who invested in further education, Borne has suggested.

But the headline age limit of 64 is not up for discussion, she said Sunday, calling it “non-negotiable.”

Despite the policy being a flagship of his second mandate following his 2022 re-election, Macron has so far sought to stay above the fray and commented only occasionally on the growing tensions.

Darmanin’s intervention has not helped reduce strains, with the tough-talking minister telling the Le Parisien daily Saturday the left were defending an idea of a “society without work and effort”.

Parliamentary battle

The left-wing opposition has submitted more than 7,000 amendments to the draft legislation in a bid to slow its path through parliament.

Macron’s centrist allies, short of an absolute majority in parliament, will need votes from conservatives to get their pensions plan approved.

A new poll by the OpinionWay survey group, published on Monday in Les Echos newspaper, showed that 61 percent of French people supported the protest movement, a rise of 3.0 percentage points from January 12.

A majority of French people — 56 percent — think reforming the pension system is necessary, the data showed.

But the proportion convinced of the need for change is falling, down five points since January 12, the survey group said.

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