Macron presides over quickening collapse of French politics

PARIS (AP) — The disintegration of France’s political landscape following the presidential election victory of Emmanuel Macron is picking up speed by the day.

Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the niece of defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, is quitting politics, depriving their National Front party of one its few real stars. Marine Le Pen tweeted Wednesday her regret at the decision but added that, “as a mother, I understand it.”

Marechal-Le Pen, 27, cited “personal and political reasons” in announcing that she won’t seek re-election in June. She held one of the National Front’s two seats in the National Assembly.

On the other extreme on the far left, the Communist Party and the party of defeated presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon are messily divorcing. They campaigned together for Melenchon’s presidential run that saw him surge late in the campaign and get nearly 20 percent of the first-round vote, narrowly missing a runoff against either Macron or Le Pen. But the parties appear increasingly likely to separately field candidates who will compete against each other in the June legislative elections.

From holding power through outgoing President Francois Hollande and his majority in the outgoing parliament, the Socialist Party is tumbling ever deeper into disarray. Meanwhile the mainstream right is torn between wanting to work with Macron and wanting to clip the new president’s wings.

Hollande presided Wednesday over his last Cabinet meeting. He and Macron then appeared together at a ceremony in Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens to commemorate the abolition of slavery. The transfer of power is Sunday.

In what he said was his last official ceremony as president, Hollande allowed himself a joke, promising to turn over all his powers to Macron: “Don’t worry!”

More seriously, Hollande said Macron’s defeat of Le Pen showed voters’ support for “tolerance, respect, dignity, democracy, openness.” Without naming the National Front, Hollande’s speech rang as a warning against the populist, nationalistic discourse of the party with a history of anti-Semitism, racism and homophobia.

Hollande addressed Macron as “Mr. President.”

“The same France that can be glorious can, sometimes, also make mistakes,” he said. “There are always more or less dark forces that try to drag France to places where it doesn’t want to go.”

“We must continue to fight against the divisions that tear people apart, including here; against discourse that sets people against each other,” he added. “There is still a lot to do, Mr. President.”

The upheavals in rival parties could strengthen Macron’s fledgling “Republic on the Move” movement as it fights its first legislative election in June, aiming to deliver him the parliamentary majority he will need to govern effectively and implement his campaign pledges over the next five years.

Macron’s presidential run and victory on a “neither left nor right” independent platform upended the decades-long left-right duopoly on power in France. In a first for modern France, the mainstream left and right parties failed to qualify for last Sunday’s presidential runoff, which saw Macron handily beat Le Pen with 66 percent of the vote.

In the new and uncertain political landscape, Manuel Valls personifies the struggle of some politicians to work out where they now fit. The former prime minister in Hollande’s Socialist government is now belatedly trying to hitch his star to Macron’s “Republic on the Move” party, but risks finding himself in no man’s land: unwanted by either party in the legislative election.