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Emmanuel Macron retains government with less room for manoeuvres

Emmanuel Macron retains government with less room for manoeuvres

Before this, France has not known such a fragmented National Assembly since the second term of François Mitterrand in 1988

By dint of refusing to campaign, President Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority in the National Assembly (parliament) of France during the second round of the legislative elections which were held yesterday. On the other hand, the National Rally, chaired by Marine Le Pen, and the coalition of left-wing parties, the New People’s, Ecologist and Socialist Union (NUPES), led by the leader of the radical left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both made forceful entries into the National Assembly.

Even as the single largest party, with 246 deputies (equivalent to MPs), the president’s party stopped far from the majority mark of 289 MPs — the capacity of the National Assembly of France is 577 MPs — who would have allowed him to govern without an alliance. The president lost more than a hundred deputies in the battle, including some of the few founding executives of his party, such as the former Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner and President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand. Even Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne was elected in Calvados with only 52% of the vote. Unheard of about a prime minister.

Several defeated ministers in their constituencies will have to leave their posts too — Minister of Health Brigitte Bourguignon and Minister of Ecological Transition Amélie de Montchalin included.

This thunderclap appears as a real disavowal for the president and announces a risk of political deadlock, which will permanently oblige the government to forge alliances on the left and on the right according to the bills. Many observers evoke an Italian legislative scenario. The main reform of the presidential programme, the postponement of retirement to 65, seems stillborn for the moment.

Impassive, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne described the situation as “unprecedented” and called for “building a majority of action… There is no alternative to this assembly to guarantee our country stability,” she said. According to her, “Multiple sensitivities will have to be taken into consideration and good compromises built in order to act in the service of France. The French are calling on us to come together for the country.”

While it was on everyone’s mind, the possibility of an of the presidential party with 60 elected members of the right-wing Les Républicains was immediately rejected out of hand by its president, Christian Jacob. “We campaigned as part of the opposition, we are in opposition and we will remain in opposition,” he said, although some of his lieutenants are less assertive.

With 142 elected, failing to become prime minister as he proclaimed on his posters, Jean-Luc Mélenchon will lead the first opposition group. This will allow its elected officials to on many parliamentary committees, including the influential Finance and Defense Committees.

Triumphant and sometimes exalted, Mélenchon castigated the “rout” of the presidential party. “It is the failure of Macronism, he says, the moral failure of those who gave lessons to everyone. While, for the first time in history, a left-wing coalition is led by its most radical pole, Jean-Luc Mélenchon did not hesitate to evoke “this dying world” and the “great upsurge of history” came “from the depths of what is the France of rebellions and revolutions”. Gathered at the Élysée Montmartre, his supporters immediately sang L’Internationale.

While it had no recognized group in the assembly, the National Rally multiplied by ten the number of its deputies to reach 89 elected, even exceeding that of the Republicans. From Hénin-Beaumont, in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, its president, Marine Le Pen, felt that she had achieved the three objectives she had set herself: “to make Emmanuel Macron a minority president; pursue the necessary political reorganization; constitute a decisive opposition group against the destroyers from above, the Macronism, and from below, the far left”. The president of the RN, re-elected hands down in her constituency, promises “a firm, responsible opposition, respectful of institutions”, affirming that her “only compass is the interest of France and the French people”.

“The glass ceiling is broken,” rejoiced Louis Aliot, mayor of Perpignan and vice-president of the RN. While it refused any on the right, in particular with the new Reconquête party led by Éric Zemmour, the RN obtained with 89 elected a number of deputies higher than that of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise (84), a movement that had allied with ecologists, socialists and communists. Many are wondering about the future of this alliance of the left, some of which predict the breakup in the near future.

France has not known such a fragmented National Assembly since the second term of François Mitterrand in 1988. A time when political opposition was much less radical. “Tonight, everything starts from zero,” explained on BFMTV the dean of French political scientists, Alain Duhamel. According to some, the country could even be ungovernable. In the Assembly, the government will face strong opposition from the right as well as the left. Without forgetting the Senate, mainly on the right, which must approve bills.

In this new political landscape, abstention remains the leading party in France. Already historic in the first round, with 52.49%, it increased in the second to reach 53.5%. Rarely has a legislative campaign aroused so little interest. Between the two rounds, Emmanuel Macron did not campaign, preferring to go to Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, contenting himself with calling for a “Republican burst” from the airport tarmac. Never seen.

“To the test of an ungovernable France”, the title of the Figaro, the editorial of which evokes a real “leap into the unknown”. Same astonishment on the left at Liberation, which speaks of a “slap”, while the daily Le Monde evokes “a risk of political paralysis”. On the right as on the left, many believe that it will be difficult to last five years with such a National Assembly and that a dissolution followed by new elections is not impossible.

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