In a historical turn of events, President Emmanuel Macron lost the majority in the National Assembly as the French public voted in fragments. President Macron suffered a major setback in the Parliamentary election which was held from 12-19 June. His centrist Ensemble coalition is the single largest group in the National Assembly with 245 seats but this is short of the majority mark. A total of 289 seats is required to achieve the majority in the French Parliament with 577 seats.
A new left-wing alliance called NUPES, formed to rival Macron, got successful in its agenda. The NUPES, under the leadership of left-wing veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, became the most prominent opposition group after winning 131 seats. The left-wing storm was accompanied on the other side of the aisle by a right-wing tsunami. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party saw a ten-fold increase and won 89 legislative seats in the new parliament.
Macron’s Second Term as President
In the April 24 Presidential polls, Emmanuel Macron scored a strong victory against the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, winning by 59 to 41 percent of the votes. He was sworn in for his second term as France’s president, a country where re-election of an incumbent President is rare. With this, he became the first French president to win a second term in more than two decades.
During the Presidential elections, he had promised that his second term would be “new” and not merely a continuation of the first. The first thing that he did after getting re-elected was appointed a new cabinet. Most notably, former Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne was appointed as Prime Minister to lead his ambitious reform plans.
- Advertisement -
She became the first woman in more than 30 years to hold the post of French Prime Minister. Borne came with her left-wing and environmental credentials. Her appointment as the Prime Minister was seen as a move to compete with the newly formed left alliance in the Parliamentary elections. From the very start, Macron sensed the damage this new left-alliance could cause to his majority.
Ever since the Presidential polls, Le Pen and defeated Jean-Luc Melenchon were both planning for comebacks in the Parliamentary elections.
The Left Challenge
Under the leadership of far-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, major left parties of France were united to form NUPES (New Popular Union). This alliance brings together the far-left La France Insoumise (“France Unbowed” or LFI), the Socialist Party, the Greens (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts), and the French Communist Party for the first time in 20 years.
Winning an estimated 140 seats, the NUPES alliance came out as the largest opposition. This is more than double their combined score compared to the 2017 Parliamentary elections – when they were contesting separately.
Their main campaign points included lowering the retirement age from 62 to 60, raising the minimum wage, and capping prices on essential products. The major problem with this alliance will be the lack of unity. Within the alliance, there are major differences on issues ranging from Europe to nuclear energy and policing. These differences were put aside while campaigning but as the lawmakers start functioning, it will cause a major disruption for the left unity.
If the newly formed left alliance plans to stay strong as the largest opposition group, it will have to find a way to placate the internal differences.
The Rise of the Right
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party made huge gains and will send 89 MPs to the new parliament, up from eight in the previous parliament, which is a 10-times increase in the number of seats. This is no less than a tsunami and makes her party the biggest rightwing force in Parliament, performing much better than the traditional right party The Republicans (LR).
The most remarkable feast about National Rally’s success is that it has pushed the far-right ideology from the fringes to the central stage.
Major Setbacks for Macron
Macron stormed into his second term promising a series of reforms including tax cuts, welfare reform, and raising the retirement age. With the divided parliament, there is a big question mark on his ability to deliver on these promises. Another major setback for Macron is that many of his close and trusted cabinet members would now have to resign. France follows a convention that a Minister should resign if they fail to win seats.
Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon, Maritime Minister Justine Benin, and Environment Minister Amelie de Montchalin – who has proved to be one of the most reliable persons in Macron’s administration– have all lost their seats and will now quit the government.
Two other close allies, Parliament Speaker Richard Ferrand and former Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, faced defeat and would soon resign. Macron’s former Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu lost her seat to Rachel Keke, a former cleaning lady who campaigned for better working conditions at her hotel.
Ever since the Ukraine crisis escalated, France has positioned itself prominently in putting an end to Russia’s invasion. This is a part of Macron’s larger ambition to establish France as a key statesman in the European Union. With the internal political challenge, this ambition will have to be put on the back burner.
The Road Ahead
The results have shown a very split scenario. At the center, Macron’s party still enjoys maximum seats but it does not make up the majority required to run the government independently. The left is large in number but too loose to act as a strong opposition. Meanwhile, the exceptional record-high number of far-right members in the parliament is going to make life very difficult for Macron.