The center alliance of French President Emmanuel Macron lost its absolute majority in Parliament on Sundaygiven the progress of the left-wing front and the spectacular rise of the extreme right in the legislative elections.
(Also read: Macron leads legislative elections in France, without an absolute majority)
Your Alliance Together! won 245 of the 577 seats in the Assembly (lower house); the left front, 137; and the far-right National Grouping (RN) of Marine Le Pen, 89, multiplying by eleven the deputies achieved in 2017.
At 44 seats from the absolute majority (289), the government spokeswoman, Olivia Grégoire, raised on Monday the specter of a “blocked country” and assured that “imagination, audacity and openness will be needed” to reach agreements.
These are the five keys to understand the result of the legislative elections this Sunday in France:
1. The failure of macronism
Macron’s Ensemble alliance lost 105 deputies. The president and his candidates focused the campaign on why they should not vote for their rivals but they failed to explain why they wanted the vote. They did not know how to campaign positively.
In the two months since Macron’s re-election and in the month that the prime minister has been in office, the government had advanced general lines of action but without clear details that would excite its voters.
(You can read: France: Macron announces entry into force of pension reform in 2023)
2. The advantages of the left coalition
The new coalition of socialists, communists, environmentalists and La Francia Insumisa doubled the number of deputies that its members had obtained separately in 2017, despite the fact that it did not obtain more votes in the first round. The French electoral system rewards large blocs or parties.
Another question will be whether this heterogeneous coalition may have a long life cycle, but has at least shown its immediate usefulness.
3. The historical result of the extreme right
The National Association (RN) has achieved a historic result with 89 deputies, from the 8 it had before. Marine Le Pen herself and her staff expected about 60 at best.
In previous elections, the real weight of the RN was underrepresented in the Assembly with respect to its votes and on this occasion the key is that the “sanitary cordon” against the extreme right has practically not worked.
In many constituencies where there were leftist or Macron candidates against the RN, one or the other abstained en masse and allowed the far right to take the seat.
(Keep reading: France: Macron combines renewal and continuity with his new government)
4. Abstention, the main party
After the record number of abstentions in the first round, the situation improved slightly in the second and there was no new historical record, but despite everything 53.77% of voters did not go to vote on Sunday.
The problem was especially serious among young people aged 18-24 (71% abstained), and among those aged 25-34 (66%) despite calls for mobilization by leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Politicians and analysts insist that solutions must be sought, including a possible change in the electoral system. But any idea will be difficult to agree on in the current political climate.
5. There are no majorities. opposing blocks
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne summed it up clearly on election night: France is experiencing “an unprecedented situation.” The Government is in a minority but the opposition is polarized into the extreme right and the left, so it will not be possible to understand each other either.
In addition, each of the three blocks have been forged in opposition to the other two, so creating understanding between them will be very difficult.
The future of France after the legislative
That’s the way it is, France looks out from this Monday to a new unexplored political territory, that of a National Assembly without a government majority but also without an alternative in the opposition, which raises doubts about the governability of the country.
President Emmanuel Macron has not yet come out in public to explain his plans and it is unknown when he will do so, while numerous questions arise about what course he will take.
In a chamber with 577 deputies in which at least 289 are needed for an absolute majority, the Macronist alliance Ensemble obtained 245 (compared to 350 in 2017), by 131 from the leftist coalition Nupes (from 63), 89 seats from the far-right RN (8) and 61 from the conservative Republicans (LR), who had achieved 112 five years ago.
(Also: Emmanuel Macron: the transcendental challenges after his re-election in France)
The government spokeswoman, Olivia Grégoire, advanced this Monday that her objective will be to “convince the moderates” to try to carry out Macron’s legislative program, although she acknowledged that “it will be complicated.”
The most logical solution will be “a minority government” that tries to weave alliances “case by case”, advances Émeric Bréhier, head of the Observatory of Political Life of the Jean Jaurès Foundation, one of the main political observatories in France.
Bréhier sees it “difficult” for Macron to reach a legislative agreement with the conservative LR party, where he is not very fond of all the defections he has encouraged in his ranks.
The “case-by-case” solution is the most feasible, but it is “extremely complicated” at the political levelhe explains, since in France there is no culture of the pact, since there have been no coalitions for more than 60 years, when the unstable IV Republic.
The political system designed by Charles De Gaulle for the Fifth Republic provides for a strong president with a firm parliamentary majority that allows him to apply his program. And now Ensemble is missing 44 deputies to achieve that absolute majority, a very important figure that will not be reached only with independent deputies from the left and right.
Even more so after an election from which three large blocs have emerged (Macronistas, left and far right) that detest each other, which makes it unlikely that they can cooperate with each other.
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France looks out from this Monday to a new unexplored political territory
Leaving aside the hypothesis of a motion of censure in which the entire opposition agrees, something unlikely, the Constitution contemplates that the president can dissolve the chamber and call new elections, an option that Macron could use if the Assembly gets too responsive.
Another open question is whether Macron could decide on a thorough change in the new government, starting with the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, who took office on May 16 and whose head the opposition has already begun to ask for, although it does not seem that the Elysee wants to give them that pleasure.
“Borne must resign,” clearly stated Manuel Bompard, one of leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s trusted men.
Macron has another problem and that is that those who have been his two great architects in the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand (speaker of the chamber) and Christophe Castaner (head of the parliamentary group), have not been re-elected, so the delicate work of weaving alliances will fall to less experienced parliamentarians.
A final question is whether the beginning of Macron’s second and last term without a parliamentary majority can favor the appearance in his ranks of his future suitors for the Elysée, among whom stands out former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, popular mayor of Le Havre and leader of the centre-right Horizons party.
Bréhier believes that “it is too early” for Philippe or another possible heir to the president to enter the scene, since “he would burn for nothing”.
*With information from EFE and AFP
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