Macron Keeps French Prime Minister in Place for ‘Country’s Stability’ After Election Chaos

French President Emmanuel Macron refused the resignation of Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, asking him to stay on temporarily as head of government after chaotic election results left the government in limbo.

French voters split the legislature among left, center, and far-right factions, resulting in no group securing the majority needed to form a government. The results from Sunday’s vote raised the risk of paralysis for the European Union’s second-largest economy.

Macron gambled that calling snap elections would provide France with a “moment of clarification,” but the outcome showed the opposite, less than three weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics, when the country will be under international scrutiny.

The French stock market dipped upon opening but quickly recovered, potentially because markets had anticipated an outright victory for the far right or the leftist coalition.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal had stated he would remain in office if necessary, but offered his resignation Monday morning. Macron, who appointed him only seven months ago, immediately requested he stay on “to ensure the stability of the country.” Macron’s top political allies joined the meeting with Attal at the presidential palace, which concluded after approximately 90 minutes.

Attal on Sunday made clear that he disagreed with Macron’s decision to call the surprise elections. The results of two rounds of voting left no clear path to form a government for the leftist coalition that came in first, Macron’s centrist alliance, or the far right.

Newly elected and returning lawmakers were anticipated to gather at the National Assembly to begin negotiations in earnest. Macron himself will depart midweek for a in Washington.

Political deadlock could have far-reaching implications for the war in Ukraine, global diplomacy, and Europe’s economic stability. Nevertheless, at least one leader expressed relief over the results.

“In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a former European Union Council head, wrote late Sunday on X.

According to official results released early Monday, all three main blocs fell significantly short of the 289 seats required to control the 577-seat National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

The results showed just over 180 seats for the New Popular Front leftist coalition, which placed first, ahead of Macron’s centrist alliance, with more than 160 seats. Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and its allies were restricted to third place, although their more than 140 seats were still way ahead of the party’s previous best showing of 89 seats in 2022.

Macron has three years remaining on his presidential term.

Rather than rallying behind Macron as he’d hoped, millions took the vote as an opportunity to express anger about inflation, crime, immigration, and other grievances — including his style of government.

The New Popular Front’s leaders immediately urged Macron to give them the first opportunity to form a government and propose a prime minister. The faction pledges to roll back many of Macron’s headline reforms, embark on a costly program of public spending, and take a tougher line against Israel because of its war with Hamas. However, it’s not clear, even among the left, who could lead the government without alienating crucial allies.

“We need someone who offers consensus,” said Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist Party, which joined the leftist coalition and was still sorting out how many seats it won on Monday.

Macron warns that the left’s economic program of many tens of billions of euros in public spending, partly financed by taxes on wealth and hikes for high earners, could be ruinous for France, already criticized by EU watchdogs for its debt.

A hung parliament is uncharted territory for modern France, and many people reacted with a mix of relief and apprehension.

“What pollsters and the press were telling us made me very nervous so it’s a huge relief. Big expectations as well,” said Nadine Dupuis, a 60-year-old legal secretary in Paris. “What’s going to happen? How are they going to govern this country?”

The political agreement between the left and center to block the National Rally was largely successful. Many voters decided that keeping the far right from power was more important than anything else, backing its opponents in the runoff, even if they weren’t from the political camp they usually support.

“Disappointed, disappointed,” said far-right supporter Luc Doumont, 66. “Well, happy to see our progression, because for the past few years we’ve been doing better.”

National Rally leader Le Pen, who was expected to make a fourth run for the French presidency in 2027, said the elections laid the groundwork for “the victory of tomorrow.”

Racism and antisemitism marred the electoral campaign, along with Russian disinformation campaigns, and more than 50 candidates reported being physically attacked — highly unusual for France.

Unlike other countries that are more accustomed to coalition governments, France doesn’t have a tradition of lawmakers from rival political camps coming together to form a majority. France is also more centralized than many other European countries, with many more decisions made in Paris.