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French prime minister faces baptism of fire in divided parliament

#French #prime #minister #faces #baptism #fire #divided #parliament

French Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne will set out the government’s policy priorities in her first speech to what is expected to be a boisterous parliament on Wednesday.

The 61-year-old will launch the legislature’s usual “general political statement”, which will be scrutinized given Borne’s weak position at the head of a minority government.

Centrist President Emmanuel Macron suffered a setback in last month’s general election that left his allies 39 seats short of a majority.

Since then, he and Borne have not succeeded in persuading the opposition parties to form a coalition.

“The prime minister works around the clock,” a cabinet minister told AFP this week. “She meets everyone, she calls everyone. She’s really determined to listen, so we’re going to make it happen.”

With no formal allies in the 577-seat National Assembly, Borne has chosen not to hold a confidence vote on her keynote speech – something almost all previous prime ministers have done after their first appearances in the House of Commons.

Holding a vote is “too risky” for Borne, who would have been forced to resign if she lost, said Bruno Cautres, a researcher at Cevipof’s political studies unit at Sciences Po University in Paris.

“She made the right decision, but she really had no choice.”

But the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party, one of the big winners in June’s general election, announced it would table a motion of no confidence immediately on Tuesday, which would also bring down Borne if she lost.

Analysts say it is highly unlikely to pass as other opposition parties, the far-right National Rally and right-wing Republicans rule out supporting the LFI.

– Exhausted? –

Borne’s immediate priorities are expected to be enacting broadly supported legislation, such as one to help low-income families navigate the cost-of-living crisis and one to free up additional funding for ailing healthcare.

Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin expressed confidence that the government could count on the support of the right-wing Republican party on anti-immigration and crime bills, saying the “Cabinet’s hand is outstretched”.

“If we present bills full of common sense and compromise, will that outstretched hand be taken by our opponents?” he told BFM television.

“No one would understand” if opposition parties systematically blocked the government, he said.

Without a formal coalition, intensive negotiations with the opposition parties are required every time the government wants to pass a law.

Borne will also be constantly vulnerable to a no-confidence motion from opponents, making French politics unpredictable and unstable for the foreseeable future.

Just two months after being re-elected to a historic second term, Macron has reduced his ability to push through reforms, with plans to raise the retirement age to 65 and reform welfare payments on hold for the time being.

French media have speculated about his mental state in recent days, with some reports suggesting he is yet to recover from the parliamentary backlash.

Le Point, a right-wing weekly, said he had lost his “energy, nerves and clarity,” while leftist l’Obs reported he was suffering from “physical exhaustion.”

Rumors that Macron was burned out have surfaced frequently during his five-year tenure, fueled by reports that he gets by on a few hours of sleep a night and often texts ministers in the wee hours of the morning.

A cabinet reshuffle announced on Tuesday did little to reinvigorate his government as he failed to attract new heavyweights.

It retained most of the senior figures in their jobs and only brought in younger new faces with little political experience.

“Emmanuel Macron is no longer attractive,” Bruno Retailleau, a senior right-wing Republican, told CNews on Tuesday.

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#French #prime #minister #faces #baptism #fire #divided #parliament

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