PARIS – Manuel Valls, the former French prime minister, said Tuesday he wants to turn his back on the Socialists and run under President-elect Emmanuel Macron's new political movement. It's not clear, however, if he will be able to do so.
All 577 seats in France's lower chamber are up for grabs in the country's two-part June 11 and June 18 parliamentary election. Macron's 577 candidates are expected to be announced Thursday and Macron himself will be sworn in on Sunday.
Valls told RTL radio that France's Socialist party "is dead and behind us" and said he wants to join Macron's Republic on the Move to run for a seat in parliament. He's hoping to run in the Essonne department, his fiefdom south of Paris, but Republic on the Move officials said his nomination won't be automatic.
"All support for the president is welcome," said Jean-Paul Delevoye, head of the Republic on the Move panel assessing the candidates. "But support doesn't necessarily translate into a nomination. (Vall's) voice is not insignificant, but his candidacy will be treated like anyone else's."
Valls, a center-leaning politician in favor of relaxing France's tight labor protections, could not even win his own Socialist party's presidential primary, losing to Benoit Hamon. After that, he threw his support to Macron before the presidential election.
Hamon came in a distant fifth in the first round of France's presidential election, capturing just over 6 percent of the vote, the Socialist Party's worst result since 1969. The poor result has triggered a fierce debate within the Socialists about whether to stick with Hamon's left-wing platform or to switch back to the more centrist views of Valls and his allies.
Socialist Party official Jean-Christophe Cambadelis stressed Tuesday that it is "impossible" to remain a Socialist party member and run for office under the Republic on the Move banner.
"If some (people) want to leave and go apart, they can do so and let us work," he said.
Valls said Macron's victory Sunday over far-right leader Marine Le Pen it was a blow to populism across Europe that gave a "terrific" image of France to countries abroad.
"The old parties are dying or are already dead," Valls said. "I'm not living with regrets. I want Emmanuel Macron, his government and his majority to succeed, for France. I will be a candidate in the presidential majority and I wish to join his movement, the Republic on the Move."
Macron has said he is aiming for an absolute majority in the lower chamber in June's elections. If so, he'll be able to choose a prime minister. If another party wins a majority, Macron could be pressured to choose a prime minister from that party.
If Macron's party performs poorly, he could also be forced to form a coalition government, a common occurrence in many European countries but something very unusual in France.
Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed.