France's President Emmanuel Macron waves as he leaves after casting his vote in the second stage of French parliamentary elections at a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France on June 19, 2022. (Photo:AFP)
Emmanuel Macron, the undisputed leader of France since 2017, has become the first sitting French President to not win a parliamentary majority since the electoral reforms of 2000. In a hard-to-explain verdict of less than half the eligible people who voted in elections to the lower but more powerful National Assembly, the swing away from the Centre was to the far right as well as the extreme left.
Macron’s centrist coalition won only 245 seats of 577, a drop from the 350-seat success of five years ago while the hard-left FUP, the Socialists, Greens and Communists become the biggest Opposition force with 131 seats, under the common name of Lupes and the leadership of Jean-Luc Melenchon (who, however, is not a member of the National Assembly) while the far-right National Rally, led by Ms Marine Le Pen who lost to Macron in the Presidential poll just two months ago, has leapt from eight to 89 seats.
The net result is a newly elected President has failed to establish an absolute majority and will be hobbled in carrying out his domestic agenda of addressing the cost-of-living crisis, tending to his controversial proposal of raising of the retirement age, delivering a promised pro-business thrust plus an urgent environment law and handling a hospital crisis, besides promoting greater European Union integration. The swing away from France’s settled system, centred on a popular President occupying the symbolically powerful Elysee palace, might give a counter thrust in the form of the importance of Parliament.
France’s Left-Right swing is, perhaps, explained by the fact that in an increasingly divided world in which people of many democracies — the oldest as in the USA, the largest as in India, politically highly evolved as in UK and most industrialised as in Germany — seem polarised and prone to extreme opinions and stands, such descent into ambiguity could have been expected. In any case, Macron’s loss of majority was forecast just after his re-election as President. A record low turnout of 46.23 per cent is an aspect of voting that will remain a puzzling phenomenon, not quite explained by universally growing disenchantment with politics; and not only in France.
The result is, however, not that extreme as to have forced Macron to work with a Prime Minister who is not his choice as incumbent Elisabeth Borne stays as a representative of Macron’s Ensemble.
However much domestic compulsions may reduce him to negotiating for compromises to pass legislation, he could still carry out foreign policy as it is largely left to the President in France’s scheme of things.
It was from a spot on the tarmac before embarking for Romania and Ukraine that Macron had made his final emotional appeal to his people for support in the Assembly election. But it is unlikely that too much would have changed because of the election verdict as France has been in the forefront of support for Ukraine in the face of the ravages of war cynically raining down courtesy Putin’s Russia after transgressing into another sovereign nation.