PARIS (Reuters) - For investors and pundits it is the big question-mark hanging over Emmanuel Macron; the 39-year-old centrist looks certain to win a runoff for the French presidency, but how can his one-year-old upstart party win the parliamentary majority six weeks later that he needs to implement his programme?
Jean-Paul Delevoye, the political veteran in charge of making that happen, says the palpable disarray of France’s two traditional governing parties has opened up the space for En Marche! (Onwards!) to do just that.
The candidate of the ruling Socialists, the far-left Benoit Hamon, managed only 6 percent of the first-round vote - and already, some leading Socialists on the right of their party who declined to back him have made overtures to Macron.
Meanwhile the conservative Republicans candidate Francois Fillon left his party in the lurch and without an effective figurehead when he declined to step down over damaging allegations of financial impropriety, which he denied. He stepped down from front-line politics on Monday.
“There will be a break-up of the Socialist party, which may have competing candidates in some constituencies, and a split of the conservatives between those who will seek revenge and those ready to cooperate,” Delevoye told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Macron, whom surveys strongly favour to beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the May 7 runoff, has based much of his pitch on a bid to transcend a party political system that has come to seem closed-off and remote from citizens’ real concerns.
French lawmakers are usually career politicians with little private-sector experience who have climbed through party ranks and local elected office before being selected from Paris to run for parliament often outside their native region.
Macron has said he will field at least 50 percent of candidates with no prior lawmaking experience, and 50 percent women. In January, he launched a call for applications online and received more than 14,000.
This month, he revealed the names of 14 of them, including the former head of the RAID elite police squad who led the charge against Islamist hostage-takers at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris in 2015, a farmer, a school headmistress, an HR director, a hospital manager, a sociologist and several entrepreneurs.
“We have extremely credible candidates from the fields of science, charity, sports, business and academia, who would never have thought to enter politics with the traditional parties,” Delevoye said.
That has not prevented Macron turning where needed to seasoned operators such as Delevoye, a 70-year-old who was a minister under conservative president Jacques Chirac.
Delevoye said the whole list would be wrapped up in the next 48 hours, and that some new names might be revealed before the second round of the presidential election. He said some were internationally known, though he declined to name them.
Many elements of Macron’s programme, such as an easing of labour market rules, as well as overhauls of the jobless benefit and pension systems, are likely to be controversial and to require robust majorities to pass.
Delevoye said the aim was to be “totally independent” and not to have to rely on support from other parties - but that Macron would be open to working with other parties if necessary.
Asked if Macron would also be ready to cooperate with a conservative majority should the Republicans party do better in six weeks’ time, Delevoye said:
“Emmanuel Macron is a very practical person, he adapts to realities.”
Since 1958, France has known three episodes of so-called “cohabitation”, when parliament is controlled by a party other than the president’s, in which case the president is generally overshadowed by a prime minister backed by parliament.
However, none came when, as now, legislative elections immediately followed presidential polls.
In his victory speech on Sunday night, Macron said he would work as soon as this week on ensuring he can build a majority.
Editing by Kevin Liffey