French President Emmanuel Macron lost control of the National Assembly in parliamentary elections on Sunday, a major setback that could send the country into political paralysis unless he is able to forge alliances with other parties.
Macron’s centrist Ensemble coalition, which wants to raise the retirement age and deepen EU integration further, would win the most seats in Sunday’s election. But that was far below the absolute majority needed to control parliament, according to the first forecasts and the first results.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the outcome a “democratic shock” and added that if other blocs failed to cooperate, “it would block our ability to reform and protect the French.”
There is no set script in France for how things will unfold now. The last time a newly elected president failed to gain an absolute majority in a parliamentary election was in 1988.
For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.
A pending parliament requires a degree of power-sharing and compromise between parties that has not been experienced in France in recent decades. Macron could eventually call snap elections if a legislative deadlock develops.
“The defeat of the presidential party is complete and there is no clear majority in sight,” hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon told cheering supporters.
The left-wing Nupes bloc he leads came in second, early forecasts showed. United behind him, left-wing parties were seen on track to triple their score from the last parliamentary election in 2017.
Macron, 44, in April became the first French president in two decades to win a second term as voters rallied to keep the far right out of power.
But since he is not contacted by many voters, he leads a deeply disenchanted and divided country where support for populist parties on the right and left has increased.
His ability to pursue further reforms of the eurozone’s second-largest economy depends on winning support for his policies from moderates outside his alliance, both right and left.
Macron and his allies must now decide whether to form an alliance with conservative Les Republicains, who came in fourth, or lead a minority government that must negotiate laws with other parties on a case-by-case basis.
“There are moderates on the benches, right, left. There are moderate socialists and there are people on the right who, perhaps, will be on our side in terms of legislation,” said government spokeswoman Olivia Gregoire.
Les Republicains platform is more compatible with Ensemble than other parties. The two together have a chance of an absolute majority in the final result, which requires at least 289 seats in the House of Representatives.
Christian Jacob, the head of Les Republicains, said his party will remain in opposition but will be a “constructive” party, suggesting agreements on a case-by-case basis rather than a coalition pact.
According to the first forecasts of pollsters Ifop, OpinionWay, Elabe and Ipsos, Macron’s Ensemble alliance won 210-240 seats, Nupes 141-188 and Les Republicains 60-75.
Former head of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, and health minister Brigitte Bourguignon lost their seats, in two major defeats for Macron’s camp.
Another key change for French politics is that far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party could increase its number of MPs tenfold to a whopping 90-95 seats, initial projections showed. That would be the party’s largest ever representation in the assembly.
Macron had called for a strong mandate during a bitter campaign against the backdrop of a war on Europe’s eastern fringes that has tightened food and energy supplies and fueled inflation, eroding family budgets.
“Nothing would be worse than adding French disorder to the disorder of the world,” the president had said ahead of the second round vote.
Melenchon’s Nupes alliance campaigned to freeze the prices of essential goods, lower the retirement age, limit inheritances and ban companies that pay dividends when laying off employees. Melenchon also calls for disobedience to the European Union.
President Emmanuel Macron pledges to build ‘stronger France’ in second term
Macron aims to boost defense budgets as France enters ‘war economy’