Emmanuel Macron who was recently elected president of France for a second term did not succeed in getting Macron loses majority in parliamentary elections and his failure could have ramifications across Europe as he would not be constrained to grapple with domestic problems at the expense of his country’s foreign policy spelling the end of his ambitions to emerge as a continental statesman. From now onwards Macron will be treated as a lightweight in European political scene and may not carry enough weight to influence European decision making. Earlier his win in the presidential election was portrayed by his supporters as an endorsement of his compatriots to lead the European politics in the manner of previous French presidents who managed to stand out on their own but such hopes are now dashed.
The apprehension was there that Macron may not be able to win a majority in parliamentary elections and that is what precisely happened as his centrist Ensemble alliance lost its majority in parliamentary elections as the far-right National Rally and left-wing parties made big gains. Final results showed Macron’s candidates winning 245 seats – much less than the 289 required to have a straight majority at the National Assembly, France’s most powerful house of parliament. The situation, described as unprecedented by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, is expected to make Macron’s political maneuvering difficult. A new coalition, made up of the hard left, the Socialists and the Greens, became the main opposition force with 131 seats.
The elections brought to fore the fact that the National Rally registered a huge surge with 89 seats. Polling was held nationwide to select the 577 members of the National Assembly. The strong performance of both the National Rally and the leftist coalition, led by hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, is expected to make it harder for Macron to implement the agenda he was re-elected on in May, including tax cuts and raising France’s retirement age from 62 to 65. Ms Borne said the unprecedented situation is a risk with challenges at the national level as well as at the international scale. Ms Borne, who herself won a seat in western France, suggested Macron’s centrist alliance will seek to get support from lawmakers from diverse political forces to find good compromises.
The National Rally’s leader, Marine Le Pen, who lost to Macron in the presidential election in May, was re-elected in her stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, in northern France. Acting National Rally president Jordan Bardella compared his party’s showing to a tsunami. He added that the message conveyed by the election is that the French people made from Emmanuel Macron a minority president and that this is the electoral failure of Macronism. Macron’s government will still have the ability to rule but only by bargaining with legislators. The centrists could try to negotiate on a case by case basis with lawmakers from the centre-left and from the conservative party – with the goal of preventing opposition lawmakers from being numerous enough to reject the proposed measures.
The government could also occasionally use a special measure provided by the French Constitution to adopt a law without a vote. A similar situation happened in 1988 under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, who then had to seek support from the Communists or the centrists to pass laws. These parliamentary elections have once again largely been defined by voter apathy – with more than half the electorate staying home. Many observers regretted low turn-out particularly among the younger voters signifying the hopelessness prevailing amongst the youth of the country.
Macron made a powerfully choreographed plea to voters earlier this week from the tarmac ahead of a trip to Romania and Ukraine, warning that an inconclusive election, or hung parliament, would put the nation in danger. Some voters agreed, and argued against choosing candidates on the political extremes who have been gaining popularity. Others argued that the French system, which grants broad power to the president, should give more voice to the multi-faceted parliament and function with more checks on the presidential Elysee palace and its occupant.
Many voters however expressed opinion that they are not afraid to have a National Assembly that is more split up among different parties. They say that they prefer a government that is more parliamentary in nature than presidential as is the case with many other countries. The election results have brought in deep disappointment within the ruling structure led by Macron. The Macron-led political elements was expecting that it will be given a free hand to pursue their policies with parliamentary support but this expectation has proved wishful thinking with Macron finally ending up a minority leader who will be kept on leash by a wary electorate. In actual fact Macron has not been able to shake-off the impression of an aloof, detached leader not sympathetic to the requirements of the majority of his countrymen. TW