PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday laid out his clearest plans yet for alliance-building after the European Parliament elections, favouring a centrist coalition broad enough to work with the Greens and attract some conservative parties.
Speaking to Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper, Macron described the elections, taking place in all 28 European Union states from May 23-26, as the most important since the bloc’s first parliamentary ballot in 1979.
With Washington and Beijing locked in a trade war, Britain mired in Brexit, multilateralism under threat globally and the EU still emerging from 10 years of financial crisis and split by a debate over migration, he said it was essential that those who were committed to Europe worked together.
“On the basis of the election results, we have to build a coalition that delivers on policies,” said Macron. “We don’t want to end up with bad backroom compromises.”
His Republique En Marche party, competing on the EU stage for the first time and running neck-and-neck with Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National, is expected to be the core of the centrist, liberal alliance, currently known as ALDE but which could change its name.
Le Pen came first in France in the last EU vote in 2014, partly as a result of low turnout. The ballot is also often a protest vote, and nationalist parties have since seen a rise in support across Europe.
“We need men and women who understand Europe well, who have a strong mandate and can be part of a progressive coalition that I’m hoping for, working together with the Social Democrats, with elements of the Christian Democrats and the Greens,” Macron told the newspaper.
Since no single party will secure the required 376 seats to hold a majority, coalition-building will be key.
As opinion polls stand, Macron’s camp within the new centrist alliance is forecast to secure around 100 seats in the 751-seat European Parliament, making it the third largest group after the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats.
Teaming up with the Greens would add around 55 seats to Macron’s putative alliance, polls suggest.
If the centrists also manage to pull in one or more Christian Democrat parties, that would contribute to sidelining the EPP, which is dominated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and has been at the forefront of EU politics for the past decade.
Macron reiterated his opposition to the “spitzenkandidat” system whereby a lead candidate is chosen by a party.
The EPP has chosen German MEP Manfred Weber, meaning that if that bloc comes top in the vote, he would be best placed to become the next European Commission president.
Macron has said EU leaders should decide who becomes president, and has indicated his support for Frenchman Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator.
(Writing by Luke Baker; editing by Richard Lough and John Stonestreet)