Emmanuel Macron’s party and its allies will not repeat an absolute majority in the National Assembly. With 244 deputies, according to the first projections, the Ensemble presidential coalition falls far short of the 289 seats needed. A setback for the president, who hoped to maintain control of Parliament and be able to carry out its major reforms without the need to reach agreements with the rest of the political forces.
The documentary that explains the turn of the workers’ vote towards the extreme right in France
The strategy of being “on the right and on the left at the same time” that the head of state has maintained since coming to power has not worked this time. After a first term oriented to the right (with two prime ministers from the Los Republicanos party), the turn to the left that the appointment of Élisabeth Borne as prime minister has not been enough to stop the alliance of progressive forces forged in around Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who would win 149 seats.
The National Association of Marine Le Pen will have, for the first time since 1986, its own group in the Assembly, going from 8 deputies to 89, according to projections. These are estimates made by polling institutes, based on the official results of a representation of polling stations that closed before 7:00 p.m., chosen for being representative of society (based on geographical, social and political characteristics). They are reliable indications, although they are not exact nor are they official results.
Although the increase in abstention in France is a constant in recent decades, this time the French seem particularly disinterested in the legislative elections. According to Ipsos-Sopra Steria data for public radio and television, abstention in the second round stood at 54%, which represents an increase compared to the first round (52.5%) and marks a historic high.
Emmanuel Macron and Élisabeth Borne had opted for a discreet campaign in the month before the elections, avoiding the most sensitive issues such as the pension reform that they have planned for this legislature. A discretion that the Government itself has described as a “democratic breather” after the presidential elections. Borne and her ministers have only entered the campaign with more force in the last week, with a communication strategy focused on the opposition against “extremisms” that targeted the candidates of France Insumisa (Mélenchon’s party) and the Group National Marine Le Pen.
With Le Pen much less present than in the presidential campaign, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his commitment to a result that would force Macron to appoint him prime minister have managed to put Nupes at the center of the debates and increase the number of deputies from progressive forces from 64 in 2017 to 149 this time. For the left-wing forces, these elections have made it possible to mobilize an “anti-Macron” front and establish themselves as a counter-power, a bet that has earned them the position of the main opposition party.
One of the reasons that specialists point to as the cause of low participation is the verticality of power in the current system. In the first five years of Emmanuel Macron’s mandate, power has been in the Elysee and in the Government, which monopolize the majority of legislative initiatives. The National Assembly had also lost its role of control with an opposition in the hands of the right-wing Republicans, aligned in many cases with presidential policies. On the other hand, the absence of debates –especially on television– has not allowed the campaign to deal with major substantive issues, such as ecology, education, health, security or immigration.
Now it remains to be seen how the government will handle the new situation. In order to approve the laws, the presidential party will have to look to other political forces, such as the Gaullist right of the Republicans, who would have obtained 78 deputies. Although these elections have led to a fairer distribution of political forces in relation to their percentage of the national vote, the question of the legitimacy of a National Assembly elected with the participation of less than half of the electorate is raised.
Parliament’s ability to involve citizens in its decisions raises questions regarding the major legislative projects planned for this mandate. The most relevant precedent in this regard was the vote on the speed limit of 80 km/h and the carbon tax, approved by the presidential majority under the leadership of the executive, and which served as a trigger for the yellow vest protests.