France: Macron alliance set to lose majority – projections

French President Emmanuel Macron’s alliance got the most seats in the final round of the parliamentary election on Sunday but lost its parliamentary majority, projections show.

The projections, based on partial results, show Macron’s candidates would win between 210 and 240 seats – much less than the 289 required to have a straight majority at the National Assembly, France’s most powerful house of parliament.

The result means Macron’s coalition will be the biggest party in the next 577-seat assembly. Falling short of the majority means the president may be forced into alliances with other parties.

“It’s less than what we hoped for. The French have not given us an absolute majority. It’s an unprecedented situation that will require us to overcome our divisions,” said Gabriel Attal, the budget minister.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the outcome a “democratic shock” and said they would reach out to all pro-Europeans to help govern the country.

If confirmed, the results would severely tarnish Macron’s April presidential election victory when he defeated the far right to be the first French president to win a second term in more than two decades.

A new coalition called Nupes – made up of the hard left, the Socialists and the Greens and led by Jean-Luc Melenchon – is projected to become the main opposition force with about 149 to 188 seats.

“[It is] a totally unexpected situation. The rout of the presidential party is complete and no clear majority is in sight,” said Melenchon.

“France has spoken and, it must be said, with an insufficient voice because the level of abstention is still much too high, which means that a large part of France does not know where to turn.”

The far-right National Rally is projected to register a huge surge with potentially more than 80 seats, up from eight in the previous parliament.

Party leader Marine Le Pen said she will seek to unite all “patriots on both the right and the left wing” after her party fared more strongly than expected.

“The Macron adventure has reached its end. We will incarnate a strong opposition,” she said.

Forecasts by pollster Ifop, OpinionWay, Elabe and Ipsos showed Macron’s Ensemble alliance winning 210-240 seats and Nupes securing 149-188.

‘A big breakthrough’

Melenchon’s Nupes alliance campaigned on freezing the prices of essential goods, lowering the retirement age, capping inheritance, and banning companies that pay dividends from firing workers. Melenchon also called for disobedience towards the European Union.

Sunday’s election result needed to be decisive for Macron’s second-term agenda following his re-election in April, with the 44-year-old president needing a majority to be able to deliver on promised tax cuts, welfare reform and raising the retirement age.

These parliamentary elections have largely been defined by voter apathy – with more than half the electorate staying home for the first round, and broadsides between candidates further turning people away.

Audrey Paillet, 19, who cast her ballot in Boussy-Saint-Antoine in southeastern Paris, was saddened that so few people turned out.

“Some people have fought to vote. It is too bad that most of the young people don’t do that,” she said.

Turnout was at 38.11 percent at 15:00 GMT, the interior ministry said on Sunday. The figure was down on the 39.42 percent recorded in the first round on June 12 at the same stage, although up on the 35.33 percent recorded in 2017.

“It’s Emmanuel Macron’s own arrogance, his own contempt for the French people and his own impotence on security and purchasing power that has made him a minority president. It’s a big breakthrough,” said Jordan Bardella, interim head of the National Rally.

Government spokesperson Olivia Grégoire said on France 2 television that “we’ve known better evenings”.

“This is a disappointing top position but still a top position,” she said. “We are holding out a helping hand to all those who are OK to make the country move forward.”

‘Less presidential’

Some voters argued against choosing candidates on the political extremes who have been gaining popularity.

Others said the French system, which grants broad power to the president, should give more voice to the multi-faceted parliament and function with more checks on the presidential Elysee Palace and its occupant.

“I’m not afraid to have a National Assembly that’s more split up among different parties. I’m hoping for a regime that’s more parliamentarian and less presidential, like you can have in other countries,” said Simon Nouis, an engineer voting in southern Paris.

Macron’s failure to get a majority could have ramifications across Europe. Analysts predict the French leader will have to spend the rest of his term focusing more on his domestic agenda rather than his foreign policy. It could spell the end of President Macron the continental statesman.

“I fear we’ll be more in an Italian-style political situation where it will be hard to govern than in a German situation with its consensus-building,” said Christopher Dembik, an analyst at SaxoBank.

“It’s not necessarily a tragedy, in my view. It may be an opportunity to reinvigorate French democracy and return to the real meaning of parliament.”

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