PARIS, April 26 France's centre-right party,
seeking to rebound after the defeat of its presidential
candidate, said on Wednesday it could share power with Emmanuel
Macron if he is elected, as pollsters predict, on May 7.
Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, is tipped to comfortably win
a runoff vote against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, but the
political movement he created a year ago faces a huge challenge
in the follow-up legislative election in June.
With Macron and his "En Marche!" movement at risk of being
in a minority in parliament, the centre-right party, The
Republicans, hopes to secure enough National Assembly seats to
demand a government role despite the defeat of its presidential
contender Francois Fillon, eliminated in a first-round vote on
Francois Baroin, who served as a finance minister for former
president Nicolas Sarkozy, on Wednesday publicly stated he was
ready to work as prime minister in a "cohabitation" arrangement
Baroin, 51 and a rising star within The Republicans, said in
an interview on CNews television; "I will be available to ...
head the government according to the will of the French people."
Any power-sharing deal between Macron and a right-wing prime
minister, like that suggested by Baroin, would likely impose big
constraints on him in pursuing economic policies that seek to a
balance state protection and pro-business reforms.
Before his exit, Fillon derided Macron's stated aim of being
neither left- nor right-wing, pointing to the ex-banker's time
as economy minister in the Socialist government of outgoing
President Francois Hollande.
This judgment of Macron is still strongly felt among many of
the Sarkozy-faction on the right-wing of The Republicans though
others, loosely represented by more moderate ex-prime minister
Alain Juppe, have suggested they may choose to join in a
majority of support for Macron.
Baroin told CNews he would vote for Macron on May 7 without
hesitation but that he would not join in helping his campaign.
He said he would throw his energy into campaigning for The
Republicans in the June parliamentary election.
The last time France had a cohabitation arrangement between
the Elysee and the government was from 1997 and 2002 when
right-wing president Jacques Chirac had to work with a Socialist
government under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
The arrangement curbed Chirac's day-to-day control over the
direction of the economy, reducing him largely to looking after
foreign policy and defence.
(Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing By Richard
Balmforth; Editing by Brian Love)