French President Emmanuel Macron has lost the absolute majority in parliamentary elections. That makes governing the country more difficult, but it could be good news in the long run, writes Lisa Louis.
https://www.dw.com-Supporters of hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had much to celebrate on election night
Ever since Emmanuel Macron became a presidential candidate in the 2017 elections that brought him to power, his declared main opponent was the far right under Marine Le Pen.
His party developed strategies to hold the National Rally, formerly known as Front National, at bay in local, regional and national elections. That didn’t prevent the far right from gaining ground in the latest presidential elections, which Macron managed to win with a smaller lead than five years ago.
But now, it’s not the far-right that’s giving Macron the biggest headache — it’s the far left.
Macron’s party and its allies have won the biggest share of seats in the National Assembly, France’s parliament, but fallen several dozen parliamentarians short of an absolute majority.
Le Pen’s party has increased their number of seats roughly tenfold, from only eight in 2017.
And yet, it’s the so-called New Ecological and Social Popular Alliance, known as Nupes, under the aegis of far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon’s La France Insoumise (“France Unbowed”) that has come second.
The left-wing alliance, which also includes the Socialists, Communists and the Greens, lured voters with environmental and social measures even promising a “guaranteed job for all.” The platform is also protectionist — pledging to nationalize energy giants and reserving public tenders to French companies — and euroskeptic, as it recommends infringing certain EU rules. The alliance is also in favor of leaving the international defense alliance NATO.
France is not used to forming coalitions
Not having the absolute majority in parliament would not necessarily be dramatic in other countries such as Germany, where parties are used to forming coalitions and working together.
In France, it’s likely to be more of a problem.
The last time such a situation occurred was between 1988 and 1991 under former socialist President Francois Mitterrand when his party was 14 seats short of the absolute majority of 289 parliamentarians.
His government had to obtain the support of right-wing and left-wing parties to get laws through. Finding compromises, however, turned out to be so difficult that the socialist government pegged new measures to votes of confidence 28 times in three years.
But that possibility of a no-confidence vote, enshrined in article 49.3 of the constitution, has since been restricted in its use. Macron and his government will only be able to apply it once per yearly parliamentary session and for the vote on the annual budget.
Macron may fear ‘parliamentary guerrilla’
The reelected president and his ministers will have to look for support across the political spectrum.
They must also reckon with strong headwinds from the far-left alliance against market-orientated measures. Nupes will use all possible means to block and prolong discussions in parliament.
The La France Insoumise party’s 17 parliamentarians already did that the past five years. With the left-wing alliance having grabbed approximately 10 times more seats under the leadership of the hard leftists, Macron’s government may be fearing what observers call a “parliamentary guerrilla.”
Macron himself said before the second round of voting that “nothing would be worse than adding French disorder to [a situation of] international disorder.” His ministers warned of an “ungovernable France.”
Rocky governing road with a silver lining?
But the new repartition of seats is also likely to force President Macron, who has the reputation of making decisions all by himself, to take the views of left-wing voters more into account. It might be a chance for him and his government to learn the art of compromise and appease certain citizens that currently feel left behind by lofty politicians in the capital.
Radicalized French voters — from the far right and the far left — might see their points of view reflected in the debates in French parliament.
That could contribute to healing the country from some of its extremist views and bringing the people back together.
A strong, united France would be a good thing. For the country itself and for the world.