Ex-French PM seeks to join Macron bandwagon

CHALLENGES: Macron faces a huge task to unite a fractured country –

Paris: Incoming French president Emmanuel Macron was starting to build his centrist government on Tuesday, with his former Socialist boss jockeying for position in a radically changed political landscape.
Macron, 39, was elected France’s youngest-ever president on Sunday, crushing far-right leader Marine Le Pen after a bruising campaign that left France’s traditional parties by the wayside.
He faces a huge task to unite a fractured, anxious country and to win a parliamentary majority in June’s general election, without which he could struggle to implement his ambitious reform agenda.
On Tuesday, former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls — a failed candidate for his party’s presidential nomination — said he wanted to run for parliament on Macron’s ticket.
“The Socialist Party is dead, it is behind us,” Valls, a reform-minded prime minister from 2014 to 2016 when Macron was economy minister, told RTL radio.
“I will be candidate for the presidential majority and I wish to join the list (of candidates) of his movement,” Valls said, while insisting that he remained a Socialist and “a man of the left”. Macron’s newly renamed “Republique en Marche” (the Republic on the Move) movement reacted warily to the announcement.
Macron’s campaign spokesman Christophe Castaner said Valls “had a good chance” of being accepted into the fold but that he had to submit an official application.
Macron, a relative newcomer with just three years’ experience in frontline politics, has promised to rejuvenate France’s jaded governing class.
He has said that half of his candidates for the 577 seats in the National Assembly will be new to politics.
The rest will be defectors from the Socialists and right-wing Republicans and members of Macron’s movement and the allied centrist Modem party.
Macron has said the defectors can keep their existing party membership and still run on his parliamentary ticket.
France’s next leader, who will be inaugurated on Sunday taking over from Socialist President Francois Hollande, has yet to name his prime minister.
The former investment banker’s victory over Le Pen has been hailed as the strongest sign that populism may be peaking in Europe after setbacks for nationalists in the Netherlands and Austria. — AFP