Defecting French lawmakers deprive President Macron of outright parliament majority

French President Emmanuel Macron during a joint video press conference at the Elysee Palace on May 18, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - Defectors from Emmanuel Macron's ruling party announced the creation of a new group in France's lower house of parliament on Tuesday (May 19), 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) to join the new "Ecology, Democracy, Solidarity" group, which will count 17 parliamentarians in its ranks.

That means Macron's party now only has 288 MPs, one short of an absolute majority, and down from the 314 Macron had after he redrew the political landscape in 2017.

However, 17 is less than the 58 MPs suggested by media reports earlier this month, indicating that party bigwigs had managed to stem the flow.

"The pressure from the executive, the party and the group was such that we had to move the announcement forward," one defector told Reuters. "Many eventually decided not to take the plunge."

Macron's party, formed by the former banker to propel him to the presidency in 2017, had already suffered a string of defections by lawmakers frustrated by his tight grip on decision-making and his pro-business policies.

Macron can still count on the support of a smaller alliance partner, the centrist MoDem. However, the arithmetic may now give MoDem more leverage over policymaking in the final two years of Macron's mandate.

His reform drive has been stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, just as he was seeking to regain momentum after weeks of pension reform and "yellow vest" protests.

The defectors do not consider themselves as opposition, but will push the government to adopt more workers - and environment-friendly reforms to prevent voters from switching to the far-right, they said.

"If we don't show results quickly, the risk is that the French choose the worst in 2022, that's what we want to avoid at all cost," Aurelien Tache, one defector, said.

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