French elections: Macron loses absolute majority in parliament in ‘democratic shock’

  • 289 seats are required for an absolute majority
  • Macron’s camp is too short
  • Preliminary results indicate the suspension of Parliament
  • The Left Alliance is a major opposition group
  • The far right scores big victories

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron lost control of the National Assembly in Sunday’s legislative elections, a major setback that could push the country into political paralysis unless he is able to negotiate alliances with other parties.

Macron’s centrist Ensemble coalition, which wants to raise the retirement age and deepen EU integration, was on course to win the most seats in Sunday’s election.

The near-final results showed that they would be well below the absolute majority needed to control parliament.

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A broad left coalition was to be the largest opposition group, while the far right scored record victories and conservatives are likely to become kingmakers.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire described the outcome as a “democratic shock” and added that if other blocs did not cooperate, “this would impede our ability to reform and protect the French.”

A hung parliament will require a degree of power-sharing and inter-party compromises that France has not seen in recent decades. Read more

There is no specific text in France for how things will develop now. The last time a newly elected president failed to obtain an outright majority was in the 1988 parliamentary elections.

“The outcome is a danger to our country in light of the challenges we have to face,” Prime Minister Elizabeth Born said, adding that from Monday Macron’s camp would seek alliances.

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Macron may eventually call an early election if a legislative deadlock follows.

“The presidential party’s defeat is complete and there is no clear majority in sight,” Jean-Luc Melenchon, a hard-left veteran, told his supporters jubilantly.

Leftwing Liberation called the result a “slap” for Macron, and the economic daily Les Echos an “earthquake.”

alliances?

United behind Melenchon, left-wing parties were seen on the way to tripling their scores from the last legislative elections in 2017.

Preliminary forecasts showed that in another significant change in French politics, the National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen, the far-right, could register a tenfold increase in the number of deputies by up to 90-95 seats. This would be the largest party representation in the Assembly ever.

Initial forecasts by pollsters Ifop, Opinion Way, Elabe and Ipsos showed Macron’s squad coalition winning 230-250 seats, the left-wing Nupes coalition winning 141-175 and Les Republicains 60-75.

Macron in April became the first French president to win a second term in two decades, as voters rallied to drive the far right out of power.

But with many voters seen as out of touch, he presides over a deeply frustrated and divided country as support for populist parties on the right and left has surged.

His ability to continue reforming the eurozone’s second largest economy hinges on winning support for his policies from moderates outside his coalition of right and left.

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Moderates?

Macron and his allies must now decide whether to seek an alliance with conservative Republicans, who came in fourth, or run a minority government that will have to negotiate bills with other parties on a case-by-case basis.

“There are moderates on the seats and on the right and on the left. There are moderate socialists and there are people on the right who might be on our side on legislation,” said government spokeswoman Olivia Gregoire.

Les Republicains platform is more compatible with Ensemble than other parties. Together, the two stand a chance of obtaining an absolute majority in the final results, which would require at least 289 seats in the House of Representatives.

Christian Jacob, head of the Republican Party, said his party would remain in opposition but “constructive”, proposing case-by-case deals rather than a coalition deal.

Former National Assembly Speaker Richard Ferrand and Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon lost their seats in two major defeats for Macron’s camp.

Macron had called for a strong mandate during a bitter campaign against the backdrop of a war on Europe’s eastern flanks that has tightened food and energy supplies and soared inflation, eroding household budgets.

The Mellenchon Newbies coalition has campaigned to freeze commodity prices, lower the retirement age, set a cap on inheritance, and ban dividend-paying companies from layoffs. Melenchon also calls for disobedience towards the European Union.

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Additional reporting by Benoit van Overstraiten, Michelle Rose, Richard Love, John Irish, Juliette Jabkeiro, Caroline Baileys and Lily Forody; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Barbara Lewis, Emilia Sithole Mataris, Cynthia Osterman and Danielle Wallis

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Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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