Macron loses absolute majority in French legislative runoff

By Luis Miguel Pascual

Paris, Jun 19 (EFE).- French President Emmanuel Macron will go into his second five-year term without the parliamentary majority he had enjoyed during his first term, having on Sunday lost many of his coalition’s former seats to the leftist NUPES group and to the historic rise of the ultraright.

The centrist forces that support Macron’s policies lost more than 100 of their 350 seats in the National Assembly and will now be far below the 289-seat threshold needed to govern without taking account of other parties’ stances.

The NUPES coalition, headed by leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon and including his La France Insoumise party, the socialists, communists and the Greens, tripled the number of parliamentary seats those parties had won five years ago and will now control about 150 seats.

With 97 percent of the votes counted, and 42 seats still up for grabs, Macron’s alliance will hold at least 222 seats, according to official figures released by the Interior Ministry, while NUPES candidates will hold at least 116, extreme rightist candidates under Marine Le Pen will hold at least 88 and the traditional French conservative party, the Republicans, will hold 61.

Melenchon, a 70-year-old veteran politician, had come in third in the presidential elections in April and thus was excluded from the runoff in which Macron handily beat Le Pen. However, the leftist leader managed to secure two of his objectives – heading the main opposition grouping and denying Macron a parliamentary majority – although he did not attain his third: winning a legislative majority, which would have forced the president to appoint him prime minister.

Thus, the outcome is somewhat bittersweet for the leftist leader and far from what voter surveys had said he might achieve, and it is further tarnished by the relative success of Le Pen’s extreme right, which for the first time in history will hold about 90 seats in the National Assembly, exceeding the traditional conservatives, with only about 61.

The new French legislature will be more divided than ever in a political system that gives priority to majorities and will force Macron to seek support from beyond his own centrist supporters to get his proposals passed.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said that this “unprecedented” fragmentation of the French political system poses “a risk to the view of the national and international challenges” the country faces, but she issued a call for governance with “multiple sensibilities” to “achieve the necessary stability and lead to the necessary reforms.”

The premier predicted that dialogue across the political spectrum will result but she did not announce a change of course for the government. On the contrary, she said that the course charted so far by Macron must be “broadened and accelerated” with measures to protect against inflation, to achieve full employment and to transition to a more ecologically-oriented economy.

Her appeal was directed at the more moderate sectors of the parties that will sit in the new National Assembly.

While Melenchon and Le Pen had exerted pressure on Macron’s Ensemble coalition by saying that they will oppose all his efforts as president, eyes are now turning back to the conservative Republicans.

That party’s current leader, Christian Jacob, who will leave office after the summer, said that they will stand in opposition to Macron, but certain key figures in the party, including former ministers Jean-Francois Cope and Rachida Dati, said in televised statements that they can nevertheless support some of his plans.

It is also not clearly known how the different elements within NUPES will react, with disparate points of view in that rather unusual conglomeration of parties ranging from the radicalism of La France Insoumise to more lukewarm positions such as that of the Socialist Party.

Macron, who five years ago launched his new centrist movement to supplant the traditional parties in the French political landscape, will now be forced to negotiate with diverse forces to try and build consensus for his proposals.

In this election cycle, the president was not able to achieve his historic aim of halting the rise of the extreme right and, although they have been significantly weakened, he has nevertheless seen that the traditional right and the moderate left have survived.

In addition, “Macronism” suffered the defeat of some of its notable candidates and the president lost three of his 15 cabinet ministers with the defeats of the current president of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, along with Christoph Castaner as well as Ecology Minister Amelie de Montchalin, Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon and the secretary of state for maritime matters, Justine Benin who were not reelected to their parliamentary seats and thus must resign.

EFE lmpg/rcf/fp/bp

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