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Legislative Setback Leaves Difficult Path Forward for France’s Macron

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Two months after French President Emmanuel Macron won reelection, his second term is now threatened with gridlock and a possible political crisis after his centrist party lost its ruling majority in the lower house of the National Assembly Sunday. Legislative vote saw a surging far left and far right — and near-record abstention.

France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne acknowledged the message from Sunday’s vote that gave the centrist Ensemble or Together coalition the largest number of seats in the lower house — but stripped it of a ruling majority. She called the situation unprecedented and vowed to cobble a working majority.

Meanwhile, the far left and far right were celebrating. Leader Jean-Luc Melenchon of the new left-wing NUPES coalition, which placed second in the voting, called the results an electoral defeat for President Emmanuel Macron.

Leader of left-wing coalition Nupes Jean-Luc Melenchon delivers a speech after the first results of the second round of the parliamentary elections in Paris, June 19, 2022.
Leader of left-wing coalition Nupes Jean-Luc Melenchon delivers a speech after the first results of the second round of the parliamentary elections in Paris, June 19, 2022.

However, his alliance didn’t do as well as he’d hoped — earning only 131 of the 577 legislative seats, compared to 245 for Macron’s centrists.

In many ways, the biggest win went to the far-right National Rally party, which scooped up 89 seats, an historic high. Leader Marine Le Pen noted that effectively makes hers the biggest opposition party, as Melenchon’s NUPES is an alliance of four different leftist parties.

French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech after the first results of the parliamentary elections in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, June 19, 2022.
French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech after the first results of the parliamentary elections in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, June 19, 2022.

What’s clear is the results present a major challenge to Macron’s second-term ambitions, which include passing major fiscal and retirement reforms. In the near term, it may also force him to concentrate less on foreign policy goals — including helping to end the war in Ukraine — as he looks for a way to govern effectively at home.

Political analyst Jean Petaux outlines several political scenarios for Macron moving forward — from hoping the NUPES coalition will divide and weaken, to seeking alliances with the center-right Les Republicains and other parties on a case-by-case basis. And possibly even orchestrating a political crisis that would allow the President to call for new legislative elections next year, hoping they might produce more favorable results. All suggest a complicated political path ahead.

Petaux believes Prime Minister Borne will likely keep her job.

But the NUPES vow to bring a no-confidence motion against her up for vote in early July. More immediately, three of Macron’s ministers lost their legislative bids. Under his rules, that means they must resign.

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