Just months after being re-elected, French President Emmanuel Macron has lost majority control of the National Assembly in legislative elections held on June 19.
Macron’s political standing will be followed in Kyiv, for the French leader has asserted himself rather controversially as a would-be go-between between Moscow and the West. Russia’s war against Ukraine and France’s position in this regard featured strongly in the French presidential election in April 2022 which he won.
The result of the parliamentary elections was a huge blow for Macron, who now has a National Assembly consisting of opposing parties with whom he will have to negotiate to guarantee the passage of his policies and reforms. These include his controversial plans to raise the age of retirement and further deepen EU integration.
From early Sunday morning, French voters cast their ballots to fill the 577-seat National Assembly, the French parliament’s lower-house chamber. The left-wing coalition New Popular Union won 131 seats, whilst there were large gains for right-wing parties such as the National Rally, which won 90 seats, and for the right-wing Republicans on 64 seats.
Macron’s centrist coalition won 245 seats in total – far less than the 350 seats the President and his allies won when he was first elected in 2017. The results mark the first time in 20 years that a newly elected president has failed to secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly.
Several of Macron’s cabinet members and political allies lost their seats, placing further pressure on the president, who had promised before the election that ministers who failed to hold onto their seats would have to resign. President of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, and Amélie de Montchalin, Macron’s minister for green transition, were two of the most notable candidates to be defeated.
“We disappointed a certain number of French people,” Olivia Grégoire, a government spokeswoman, told France 2 television on Sunday. “It’s a disappointing first place, but it’s a first place nonetheless,” she said, adding that any negotiated coalition would consist of “all those who want to move the country forward.”
In April, Macron became the first French president to win a second term in two decades, after a concerted effort during campaigning to keep far-right Marine Le Pen out of power. But social division and political disenchantment has plagued the president’s tenure, accompanied by widespread protests from the yellow vest movement.
The French president, who visited Kyiv last week, was widely criticized over his remarks that it was “essential not to humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can build a way out through diplomatic channels.” He also faced criticism from French voters, with some claiming he was ‘grandstanding’ in his highly publicized phone calls to Vladimir Putin and was failing to focus on domestic issues.
In light of Sunday’s result, Macron will likely be forced to seek a coalition or build short-term alliances on specific bills, to ensure their passing. But it is currently unclear how this might be achieved, considering the increasingly conflicting political ideologies amongst the numerous parties that make up the National Assembly.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the result a “democratic shock”, adding that if parties did not cooperate, it “would block our capacity to reform and protect the French.”
Meanwhile, Élisabeth Borne, Macron’s recently appointed prime minister, said that the results were “unprecedented” and that “this situation constitutes a risk for our country, given the challenges we must face.”
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