Defections by politicians disgruntled over President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies have cost France’s ruling party its absolute majority in the lower house of parliament.
The move leaves the centrist LREM party with 288 politicians out of a total of 577 — just one short of an absolute majority.
Yet LREM and its centrist allies, including 46 politicians from the MoDem party, remain largely dominant at the National Assembly which has the final say in the law-making process.
A new independent group was created on Tuesday at the National Assembly after seven politicians left Mr Macron’s LREM.
The move echoes tensions over the political direction Mr Macron’s young party, born from the 2017 presidential race, should follow.
It comes at an inconvenient time for Mr Macron, who is struggling to revive the economy after two months of lockdown.
The president of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, from LREM, told France 2 TV that “doing this at a moment where we precisely need to rise above divisions, to unite all forces to face our challenges, that’s not the best time”.
The new group, named Ecology, Democracy, Solidarity is composed of 17 politicians, including former LREM members, greens and socialists.
It describes itself as “neither in the majority nor in the opposition”.
The announcement also comes as Mr Macron is discussing with French political leaders whether to go ahead with the postponed second round of municipal elections at the end of June.
The voting process was suspended after the first nationwide round as the country entered lockdown in mid-March.