Macron loses the absolute majority in the French legislative elections | International
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France has entered uncharted territory. The French sanctioned Emmanuel Macron on Sunday in the second round of the legislative elections. The macronista coalition, Ensemble, will continue to be the one that will have more deputies than the rest, but it is far from an absolute majority. And, after governing for a five-year period without opposition, the president will be forced to seek compromises in a National Assembly with a powerful opposition from the left and the extreme right. The country has two alternatives: either learn the culture of consensus, exotic in its presidential system, or be doomed to ungovernability.
The corrective is severe for the President of the Republic, just two months after being comfortably re-elected. His coalition loses 100 or more seats to 244 of 577, according to the official count with 100% of the vote counted. In second position, with 127 seats, is the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (NUPES), the alliance of left-wing populists, socialists, environmentalists and communists led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In addition to the collapse of Macron and the emergence of the leftist alliance as the first opposition force, the other novelty of election night is the rise of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), which went from eight deputies to 89.
Abstention was 53.7%, half a point more than in the first round, last Sunday, but five points less than in the second round of 2017. The number of seats could vary once all the deputies —some ran without the official label of any party—have been placed in each parliamentary group.
“This situation constitutes a risk for our country, given the challenges both nationally and internationally,” Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said after a three-hour meeting with Macron. “Starting tomorrow we will work to build a majority of action,” she added.
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A new political era begins in France, after a five-year period in which, with an absolute majority of 345, Macron has been able to govern with a free hand and the National Assembly has limited itself, in most cases, to giving the go-ahead to the initiatives of a president who concentrated all powers. The French send a signal to Macron: they want to impose limits on his power. He will no longer be able to rule alone. His entire reform program is on hold, and he is not sure that he has the necessary majorities to apply it. His strategic ability is also in question: confident in the ease of victory after winning the presidential elections, he decided to run a low-profile campaign.
Ensemble could reach an absolute majority with an alliance with the moderate right of Los Republicanos (LR). LR will have 61 deputies. “We will continue in opposition,” warned Christian Jacob, president of LR.
“The disaster, for the presidential party, is total and no majority appears,” said Mélenchon, who did not rule out that, at the end of the count, NUPES was the candidacy with the most deputies. Le Pen, for his part, declared: “We will embody a firm but respectful opposition to the institutions.”
Several Macron ministers were candidates for the legislative elections and at least three lost: the head of the Ecological Transition, Amélie de Montchalin, that of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, and the Secretary of State for the Sea, Justine Bénin. They must leave office, according to the rule established by the Elysée Palace. The outgoing president of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, a friend and ally of the president, lost in Brittany. And the head of the macronista majority, Christophe Castaner, in the Alpes de Haute Provence. Also in a delicate position is the new prime minister, Borne, narrowly elected in her Normandy constituency. Her future is uncertain.
The National Assembly will reflect, more faithfully than ever before, the tripartite scheme —centre, left-wing alliance and extreme right— that has dominated French politics since Macron seized power in 2017. Anti-system voices will be heard more and will carry weight major in parliamentary life. And social discontent will be reflected in the hemicycle. If he fails in the attempt to form majorities, the President of the Republic has the possibility of dissolving the Assembly and summoning new legislative ones.
In France, after these legislative elections, a period without elections is inaugurated, until the European ones in 2024. An electoral cycle is closed that began in 2019 precisely with the European ones, continued in 2020 with the municipal ones, in 2021 with the regional ones and in 2022 with the presidential and legislative ones. In each of these elections, abstention has broken records, or has been close. The French were already beginning to feel electoral fatigue.
The race to succeed Macron in 2027 has begun and the outcome of the legislative elections could undermine his authority. Macron cannot run for a third term in a row. Among his allies, former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe — today leader of the new Horizons party — and current Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, do not hide his ambitions.
The future of Mélenchon
Another unknown: what will become of Mélenchon, the undisputed leader of the new left and one of the winners of these elections, but who was not a candidate in these legislative elections and, therefore, is left without the speaker of the seat in the National Assembly. He will not have achieved, according to projections, his goal of leading the first parliamentary force and thus forcing Macron to appoint him prime minister, but he has returned the ailing left to the center of French politics.
In the first round, on June 12, Ensemble got 25.75% of the votes. NUPES, 25.66%. The campaign was staged as a duel between Macron and Mélenchon. Macron presented Ensemble as the party of order and warned that a victory for the Mélenchonists would mean “adding French disorder to world disorder.” “Chaos is Macron!” Mélenchon replied.
Macron’s priority was the approval, in the National Assembly, of the plan to protect the purchasing power of the French against inflation. In autumn, the turn of his most complicated reform should come, postponed in the first five years after weeks of strikes and demonstrations and the arrival of covid. It is about the pension reform, which should bring the retirement age from the current 62 years to 64 or 65 years. It remains to be seen if he will have enough deputies to approve these plans.
The left had campaigned with a program to reduce the retirement age to 60 years, raise the minimum wage to 1,500 euros per month and control the prices of basic necessities. Each member party of NUPES should have its own parliamentary group. The risk is that, given the differences between pro-Europeans and eurosceptics or between supporters of the free market and anti-capitalists, the alliance will fracture.
The new legislature, the XVI, will be officially inaugurated on June 28 with the election of the president of the National Assembly and the formation of the groups. Meanwhile, Macron may have to reshuffle the government formed in May after the presidential elections. In July Prime Minister Borne, or whoever succeeds her if she leaves office, could deliver a so-called general policy speech to Parliament and request a vote of confidence. It’s not mandatory. With the new National Assembly, he would not have it as easy as his predecessors.
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