French President Emmanuel Macron was set to lose his parliamentary majority on Sunday after major electoral gains from a newly formed left-wing coalition and far-right, in a surprise blow to his hopes of major reform in his second term.
The run-off election was decisive for Macron’s agenda for a second term after re-election in April, with the 44-year-old needing a majority to secure promised tax cuts and welfare reform and raising the retirement age.
Their “Together” coalition was well on its way to becoming the largest party in the next National Assembly, but according to estimates by five French voting firms, 200–260 seats far short of the 289 seats needed for a majority.
If confirmed, the results would severely tarnish Macron’s victory in April’s presidential election, where he defeated the far-right to become the first French president to win a second term in two decades.
The new leftist coalition NUPES, under 70-year-old hard-left figurehead Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was on course to win 149-200 seats.
The coalition formed in May after the Left was defeated in April’s presidential elections, the groups Socialists, Hard-Lefts, Communists and Greens.
The Left had only 60 seats in the outgoing parliament, meaning they could triple their representation.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally Party was on track to make huge gains after having only eight seats in the outgoing parliament.
According to estimates, this was due to the sending of 60–102 MPs to the new parliament.
– Threats to ministers –
Falling short of a majority would force Macron into difficult partnerships with other parties on the right to force through legislation.
Now there could potentially be weeks of political deadlock as the president seeks to reach out to new parties.
The most likely option would be an alliance or poaching with MPs from the Republican (LR), the traditional party of the French right that is on track to win 40–80 seats.
The nightmare scenario for the president – securing a left-wing majority and Mélancheon leading the government—appears to be excluded.
It has been 20 years since the last time France had presidents and prime ministers of different parties, when the right-wing Jacques Chirac had to work with a socialist-dominated parliament under Premier Lionel Jospin.
The ruling party’s campaign was overshadowed by rising concerns over rising prices, while the new Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne failed to make an impact in an sometimes faded campaign.
French television reports said that Bourne had gone to the Elysee to speak with Macron even before the projection was published.
The jobs of ministers standing for election were also on the line under a convention that they should resign if they failed to win seats.
In the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe – where voting takes place a day earlier – Justin Benin was defeated by NUPES candidate Christian Baptiste on Saturday, a loss that jeopardizes his role as secretary of state for the sea in the government.
On the mainland, France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune and Environment Minister Emilie de Montchalin face tough challenges in their constituencies, both of whom are likely to pull out of government if they lose.
– Bitter exchange –
The fight between Together and the NUPES has turned increasingly bitter over the past week, with Macron’s allies trying to paint their main opponents as dangerous far-left.
Senior MP Christophe Castaner has accused Mélanchon of wanting a “Soviet revolution”, while Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has called him “French (Hugo) Chávez” after Venezuela’s late dictator.
Macron went to Ukraine last week, hoping to remind voters of his foreign policy credentials and one of Melanchon’s perceived weaknesses – his anti-NATO and anti-EU views at a time of war in Europe.
Macron called on voters to give his coalition a “concrete majority” before starting the trip, saying “nothing worse will happen than adding French disorder to the world”.
Mélénchon has promised a break from “30 years of neo-liberalism” – meaning free market capitalism – and an increase in the minimum wage and public spending, as well as nationalisation.
The turnout, seen as crucial to the outcome of the poll, was 38.11 per cent, with three hours remaining, down from the 39.42 per cent recorded in the first round on June 12 in the same phase, though 35.33 per cent was recorded. 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
Meanwhile, polling firms have predicted that the abstinence rate will be between 53.5 percent and 54 percent, compared to the 52.5 percent recorded in the first round.
The first round of votes put candidates from most of the country’s 577 constituencies into the final, which went head-to-head on Sunday.
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