President Emmanuel Macron has lost his majority in France’s National Assembly after a left-green opposition alliance and a late upsurge in the far right fared badly in Sunday’s general election.
France’s deadlocked parliament means Macron will have to make deals with other parties in the assembly to pass legislation over the next five years, and his ministers will face a tumultuous ride in parliamentary debates.
Final Home Office results on Monday showed that Macron’s centrist Ensemble (Together) alliance had won 245 seats in the assembly, far fewer than the 289 required for the outright majority he had held since 2017.
Far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-green alliance – the New People’s Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) – was supported by many young urban voters and emerged as the main opposition bloc with 131 members in the 577-seat chamber.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National was the big surprise of the evening, winning 89 seats – more than ten times the number of the previous general election. The conservative Les Républicains and their partners won 74 seats.
Élisabeth Borne, Prime Minister of Macron, who announced a government reshuffle, said in a post-election speech that the situation was “unprecedented” and “a risk for the country”. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire admitted the results were “disappointing” and said the government needs to be “imaginative” to deliver its next round of reforms.
Borne pledged the government would start work Monday to build a majority in the National Assembly that can do deals, including pursuing Macron’s goals of full employment and an “ambitious ecological transition” to combat climate change by investing in renewables energies.
Mélenchon told jubilant supporters Macron had suffered a “total defeat” and his alliance was the new face of France’s historic “upsurge in rebellion and revolution.”
Jordan Bardella, leader of Le Pen’s Eurosceptic immigration party, said the RN had made “an historic breakthrough”. A smiling Le Pen, elected with 61 percent of the vote in her northern constituency, said French people concerned about migrants, crime and injustice would have a powerful group defending their interests in parliament.
Mélenchons Nupes – which includes the French Socialist, Communist and Green parties, as well as his own far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) – will, by convention, chair the assembly’s crucial finance committee after they replace Les Républicains as chief opposition.
But the far-right RN, as the largest single opposition party, also claimed a right to the position on Monday.
Still, Macron’s ensemble won more seats than any other party, sparing him an unproductive “coexistence” with a government and prime minister imposed by a hostile parliamentary majority.
As President of the Fifth Republic established under Charles de Gaulle in 1958, Macron also retains control of national defense and foreign policy.
However, Macron and Borne will have to forge a coalition deal or temporary deals with other parties – most likely the conservative LR – to pass legislation. That includes the next round of economic reforms, including the president’s plan to simplify the costly pension system and raise the official retirement age from 62 to 65 – a proposal bitterly opposed by the left and opposed by leading unions.
LR secretary-general Aurélien Pradié blamed Macron for the promising “cacophonic” situation in parliament, but told radio Franceinfo that his party would vote with or against the government on a case-by-case basis.
In April, Macron defeated Le Pen in the last round of the presidential election, becoming the first incumbent to win a second term in 20 years. He is also the first since 2002 not to win a majority in the National Assembly after his own election.
The left demanded multiple scalps from Macron’s team, with Nupes candidates beating Christophe Castaner, a former home secretary who was Macron’s party leader in the Assembly, and Richard Ferrand, the outgoing Assembly leader.
Some of Macron’s ministers will also lose their jobs, under his rule that ministers who stand for election and lose must resign.
Brigitte Bourguignon, health minister, lost by 56 votes to a far-right candidate in northern France, and Amélie de Montchalin, environment minister, lost to the left in Essonne, south of Paris. In a constituency on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Deputy Marine Minister Justine Benin was beaten by a left-wing rival.