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France is going through a confusing period. Sunday’s legislative elections brought about major changes and a difficult future for President Emmanuel Macron.
The ruling coalition Ensemble won 245 seats. It was the most voted group but fell far short of the 289 needed to have an absolute majority. Checked by two radical forces, those of Mélenchon and Le Pen, it will be complicated to pass the fundamental laws of the second term. In the first round, Macron presented Ensemble as the party of order and affirmed that a victory of the left would mean adding French chaos to the world disorder.
The presidential bench is the strongest, but it will have to make pacts. France enters unknown territory. After governing for five years without counterweights, the Executive will be forced to seek parliamentary agreements. Either it applies a policy of consensus or risks its governability. This reality will be hard for a president comfortably re-elected two months ago.
The New Ecological and Social People’s Union (Nupes), an alliance of populists, socialists, ecologists and communists led by Mélenchon, reached 131 legislators. It is the second political force. Given the gap between Europeanists and skeptics, or free market supporters and anti-capitalists, it runs the risk of fracturing.
The National Rally (RN), Le Pen’s right wing party, jumped from 8 to 89 legislators. This made it the third force, ahead of The Republicans (LR), with 61 seats. An absolute majority could be reached through an alliance with the moderate right of LR, although its leader -Christian Jacob- announced that he will remain in opposition and will not adopt a docile position.
A new political era begins in France after a five-year period where, with an absolute majority of 345 legislators, Macron governed with free hands. The National Assembly limited itself, almost always, to give the go-ahead to his initiatives. The French people sent him a signal by imposing limits on his power. He will no longer be able to decide alone. His reform program has been put on hold, as it is not certain that he will have a majority to implement it. His strategic ability is also questioned, since, confident of the ease of his previous victory, he conducted a campaign with too low a profile.
The National Assembly reflects more accurately the French tripartite scheme of center, left and right, beyond the relative nature of these labels. Anti-democratic positions will carry more weight. If he fails to achieve a majority, the President of the Republic has the power to dissolve the Assembly and call for new legislative elections.
Emmanuel Macron faces the danger of an ungovernable nation. A Parliament divided into three blocks, two of them extreme, represents a very different scenario from the previous one. To advance his plans, he will have to negotiate and give in. A new fact for someone who governed comfortably and now will see many blockages. The most complicated reform will be the pension reform, which intends to raise the retirement age from the current 62 years to 65. It will be necessary to see if it receives enough support to be approved. The situation involves risks.
The results reveal that many French people voted for Macron in the presidential election to prevent Le Pen from entering the Elysée. For his part, Mélenchon was able to unite a left that two months ago was divided. He aspired to achieve an absolute majority to force his appointment as premier, since the president must be chosen from the majority group. He did not succeed. The new composition of Parliament reflects the deep ideological divide in French society. The Executive will have to move forward amidst a minefield.
On Sunday, several ministers put their posts on the line, since whoever did not win the seat in their constituency had to leave the government. The Premier, Élisabeth Borne, retained her position by winning her seat in Calvados.
The 16th legislature will be officially inaugurated on June 28, with the election of the president of the Assembly and the formation of the parliamentary groups. Citizen polarization has strengthened the extremes of the political spectrum. The president will therefore have to govern a France further away from the center. A serious challenge for French democracy.
Eduardo Zalovich, Uruguayan-Israeli, is a history professor and journalist. He has written for several media, such as La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda and Correo de los Viernes. Zalovich analyzes, from the Middle East, the reality of the region and international politics. // Eduardo Zalovich, uruguayo-israelí, es profesor de Historia y periodista. Ha escrito para varios medios, como La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda y Correo de los Viernes. Analiza, desde el Medio Oriente, la realidad de la zona y la política internacional.