Defectors from Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party announced the creation of a new group in France’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday, depriving the president of an outright majority and raising pressure for more left-wing policies.
Seven lawmakers are splintering from Macron’s La Republique En March (LREM) party to joint the new “Ecology, Democracy, Solidarity” (EDS) group, which said it would initially count 17 parliamentarians in its ranks.
That means the LREM now only has 288 MPs, one short of the 289-threshold needed for an absolute majority in parliament, and down from the 314 Macron had after he dynamited the political landscape in 2017.
Macron’s party, formed after the former investment banker won the presidency in May 2017, has suffered a string of defections in recent months by parliamentarians frustrated by his tight grip on decision-making and his pro-business policies.
Macron can still count on the support in parliament of a smaller alliance partner, the centrist MoDem party. However, the arithmetic may now give MoDem more leverage over policymaking in the final two years of Macron’s five-year mandate.
His reform drive has been stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, just as he was seeking to regain momentum after weeks of pension reform protest and before that anti-government “yellow vest” protests.
Richard Ferrand, a close Macron ally and president of the National Assembly, acknowledged the loss of LREM’s absolute majority but said the government could count on the votes of 342 MPs with MoDem’s support.
A parliamentary group does not have the formal structures of a party. It is, however, highly likely that any parliamentarian who joined the new group would be ejected from Macron’s party.
The new group will be chaired by Paula Forteza and Matthieu Orphelin, a close ally of former environment minister Nicolas Hulot, who quit Macron’s government in frustration at the president’s climate change and green energy policies.
The new group will hold a press conference later on Tuesday.