October 6, 2022

France Rediscovers Parliamentary Politics | The Nation

Read Time:13 Minute, 5 Second


We beat him,” boasted left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon. “He has no majority. And since he has no principles, he’s already starting to belly dance in front of anyone who wants to help him govern. You will see that he’ll end up polishing Madam Le Pen’s shoes.” The results of France’s parliamentary elections made for a jubilant and punchy Mélenchon, who was basking in the crowd of supporters gathered outside the Parisian concert hall where France’s new left-wing alliance celebrated the June 19 runoff vote.

An hour earlier, President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition failed to secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly. This marks a major departure from the president’s first term, when the Macronists held total control over the lower house of France’s parliament, turning the latter into an echo chamber for the president’s priorities. This setback comes just two months after the president’s reelection over far-right rival Marine Le Pen, and Macron’s second term is already being bogged down in the messy work of parliamentary negotiation and coalition building.

For Macron—who in 2017 expressed his exalted view of broad executive power by referring to his presidency as “Jupiterian”—this will be a hard reality to swallow. On June 21, during one of the meetings between Macron and representatives of the National Assembly’s official party caucuses, Socialist Party General Secretary Olivier Faure told the president, “Jupiter is finished.” Governing France will now require some form of cooperation with opposition deputies, who will be looking for every opportunity to pull Macron in their direction on policy.

The defeat even hit Macron’s inner circle. Key early allies of the president, like Richard Ferrand and Christophe Castaner, the outgoing president of the National Assembly and one of Macron’s first-term interior ministers, respectively, were defeated by left-wing candidates. Figures slated to be second-term ministers like Brigitte Bourguignon and Amélie de Montchalin were likewise rejected by voters, and will now be forced to leave their governmental posts.

Elisabeth Borne, tapped as prime minister in early May, narrowly won election in the Normandy district assigned to her, edging out a 22-year-old political novice by just over 2,000 votes. Macron has reaffirmed his confidence in Borne, who will deliver her highly anticipated “general policy” speech on July 5. But many think her days are numbered, as the president may be forced to find a figure more amenable to opposition support (likely from the right), and better positioned to fend off potential votes of no confidence. In a breach of normal etiquette, Borne and the government have up to this point wavered on whether her July 5 speech will be followed by a vote of confidence.





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