Manuel Valls, the former Socialist prime minister of France, has declared that the “Socialist Party is dead” and announced that he will run in next month’s legislative elections under the banner of president-elect Emmanuel Macron’s new centrist party.
“I will be a candidate in the presidential majority and I wish to join up to his movement,” Mr Valls told RTL, a French radio station, on Tuesday.
Mr Valls said that now that Mr Macron had defeated National Front leader Marine Le Pen it was important that he won a “large and coherent” parliamentary majority “so that he can govern”.
Mr Valls, who was on the more moderate, pro-business wing of the socialist party, added: “I am attached to the Socialist Party, its history, its values but the Socialist Party is dead and is behind.”
On Sunday, Mr Macron was elected president of France with two-thirds of the vote and now faces the challenge of building a majority in the legislative elections next month so he can push through reforms. En Marche! (On the move), his year-old political movement which following Mr Macron’s victory has changed its name to En Marche la République (Republic on the Move), as yet has no elected MPs.
Mr Macron is balancing luring moderate members of the established mainstream parties to help him assemble a solid majority, at the same time fulfilling his promise of political renewal. His party professes to be neither on the left nor on right and he has said that at least half the candidates would have to be new faces from civil society with no political affiliation, and half would have to be women. Applicants from any party are welcome but they must drop any political affiliations.
All 577 posts in the legislative elections for the National Assembly next month are up for grabs and En Marche la République has vowed to field candidates in every seat. To secure a majority, Mr Macron would need to win 290 seats.
In March, Mr Valls became the most senior member of the ruling socialist party to endorse Mr Macron, prompting a furious reaction from many in the party when he said he would vote for Mr Macron in the presidential election, and not the socialist candidate Benoît Hamon. Mr Valls, who was knocked out of his own bid for the presidency in the socialist party’s primaries in January, said he was trying to prevent the rise of the far right.
The defection of Mr Valls underlines the fragmentation of the socialist party and the challenges it faces in rebuilding itself after a presidential election in which Mr Hamon won only 6.4 per cent of the vote. The party is facing deep ideological rifts, squeezed between Mr Macron’s social liberal brand of centrism and the hard left espoused by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.