President Emmanuel Macron was struggling to retain control of France’s National Assembly on Sunday night, with pollsters’ projections for the final round of the legislative election showing unexpectedly poor results for his centrist Ensemble (Together) alliance and strong showings by a resurgent left and the far right.
An Ipsos-Sopra-Steria projection for French broadcasters forecast that Macron’s alliance would win 224 seats in the National Assembly, well short of the 289 needed for a majority. The left-green alliance formed by far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon — the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (Nupes) — is set to become the main opposition party with an estimated 149 seats.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National is the big surprise of the night and is forecast to win 89 seats — more than 10 times as many as it did in the last legislative elections in 2017. The conservative Les Républicains and its partners are given 78, better than expected.
If confirmed by the final results, the outcome means that Macron will need to strike deals with other parties in the National Assembly to pass legislation over the next five years and that his ministers will face a turbulent ride in parliamentary debates.
“I’m not going to hide the fact that these results, if confirmed, are far from what we were hoping for,” Gabriel Attal, Macron’s minister for public accounts, told TF1 television. “There’s no absolute majority for any other party either, so it’s something of an unprecedented situation.”
Jordan Bardella, current president of Le Pen’s Eurosceptic, anti-immigration Rassemblement National party, said the RN had made “a historic breakthrough”. He added: “Emmanuel Macron has been beaten, the French don’t want his policies . . . He cannot continue with the same fiscal policy, or migration policy or EU policy.”
Mélenchon’s 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 hold the chair of the assembly’s crucial finance committee after replacing the LR as the chief opposition party.
Macron’s Ensemble alliance appears to have won more seats than any other in the assembly, which means the president will probably be spared an unproductive “cohabitation” 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, he also retains control over national defence and foreign policy.
Macron and his prime minister Élisabeth Borne will, however, need to forge a coalition agreement or temporary deals with other parties — most likely the conservative LR — in order to pass new laws.
That includes the next round of Macron’s economic reforms, including his plan to simplify the costly pension system and increase the official retirement age to 65 from 62 today — a proposal that is bitterly opposed by the left and contested by leading trade unions.
In April, Macron beat Le Pen in the final round of the presidential election to become the first president in 20 years to win a second term. But it now looks likely that he will also be the first since 2002 who has failed to secure a majority in the National Assembly after his own election.