Less than two months after being re-elected France President, Emmanuel Macron has lost control of the French National Assembly following a strong performance by a left alliance and the far right.
Mr. Macron, prior to the National Assembly elections, called on voters to deliver a solid majority; but his centrist coalition lost dozens of seats in an election that left French politics disjointed.
The Prime Minister he recently appointed, Elisabeth Borne, said the situation is unprecedented. A storm broke over Paris as she returned to her Matignon residence from a long meeting at the Presidential Élysée Palace, pointing out that modern France never saw a National Assembly like this one.
“This situation represents a risk for our country, given the risks we’re facing nationally and internationally,” she said, adding that “We will work as of tomorrow to build a working majority”. But reports are suggesting that could be impossible as the two other biggest groups in the Assembly are not remotely interested in collaboration. Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire, is adamant that France is not ungovernable, but said it was going to require a lot of imagination.
Happy Days on the Other Side
Far-left leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon was enjoying his success in bringing together mainstream parties from the left with Communists and Greens into an alliance called Nupes. In an address, he told supporters that the Presidential party suffered a total rout and every possibility was now in their hands.
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Rally party were also in a jubilant mood after turning eight seats into 89. She said, “The people had spoken”, pointing out that Macron’s adventure is over and he has been consigned to a minority government.
The Just-in-case Situation
If the Prime Minister is looking to the right-wing Republicans to help build a working majority, their message is not immediately encouraging as its Party Chairman, Christian Jacob, said the result is a “stinging failure” for a president now paying for cynically weaponising France’s extremes.
“He’s not Jupiter anymore,” Dominique Rousseau, Professor of Constitutional Law, intimated while referring to an earlier nickname ridiculing Mr. Macron’s supposed desire for power. Rousseau added that “For Mr. Macron these five years, will be all about negotiations and parliamentary compromise”.
Recounting the Glorious Days
It was so different in April 2022, when Mr. Macron defeated Marine Le Pen convincingly and won a second presidential term. He had more than 300 seats, but to maintain his outright majority he needed 289, which now fell well short at 245. According to reports, more than half of the voters abstained from the elections, as it recorded a turnout of 46.23%.
Among the Ministers to lose their seats was Health Minister, Brigitte Bourguignon, who lost to her far-right opponent by 56 votes. Green Transition Minister, Amélie de Montchalin, was also defeated, but another key figure, Europe Minister Clément Beaune, survived despite losing in the first round.
One of Mr. Macron’s closest allies, the President of the Assembly, Richard Ferrand, conceded victory to his Nupes rival, Mélanie Thomin. Another casualty came on the Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe, where a Secretary of State, Justine Benin, lost her seat.
In a rousing speech to his supporters, Mr. Mélenchon said the result marked the moral failure of “Macronie”, accusing the ruling party of enabling the far right by refusing to give clear guidance in seats where the left was running head-to-head with Marine Le Pen’s party.
In a tacit admission that he was unlikely to achieve his ambition of Prime Minister, the far-left leader said he is now changing his role in battle. “My commitment is and will remain at the front of your ranks until my final breath if you want”, Mr. Mélanie said. However, as he was not running for a seat, he will not feature in the National Assembly.
Macron’s Glory Days
Five years ago, Emmanuel Macron harnessed a wave of optimism, bringing in a fresh cohort of MPs from civil society. The new faces this time have emerged from Nupes and the National Rally.
Among the MPs elected for Nupes, which stands for New Ecological and Social Popular Union, is a hotel chambermaid, Rachel Keke, who led her colleagues in a fight for better pay and conditions. Keke vowed to dance in the Assembly if she succeeded in defeating a former Sports Minister.
Which reforms are at risk?
President Macron promised to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, but his rivals have very different ideas on how to go about it. His big-ticket proposals were reforming benefits, cutting taxes and raising the retirement age gradually from 62 to 65. One of his promises, the pension age reform will be particularly hard to get through, although he will attract support from the Republicans.
Then there are proposals to move towards carbon neutrality and full employment. Additionally, he recently offered a “new method” of governing with greater involvement from civil society, proposing a National Council for Refoundation made up of local people to make France more democratic.