“A real crisis of democracy”: France is entering a political stalemate | Emmanuel Macron news
Paris, France – In France, legislative elections are an opportunity for voters to give the president a strong majority in the country’s parliamentary body, the National Assembly, and therefore a powerful political mandate.
But two months after President Emmanuel Macron won re-election against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, the French have not given overwhelming support to their president’s political party.
Only 46% of registered voters voted in the second round of legislative elections.
“Macron has lost a lot of supporters, which shows that this is a heart attack,” Philippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at University College London, told Al Jazeera.
Just 29 percent of 18 to 24 year olds voted in legislative elections and 36% of voters with a total monthly household income of less than 1,200 euros ($1,266). By comparison, 66% of people over 70 and 51% of high-income voters voted.
France’s legislative results are a significant setback for Macron. The president’s coalition, Together, lost 44 seats to secure an outright majority, winning 245 – a drop of more than 100 seats from his previous term. It is the first time in 20 years that a newly elected (or re-elected) president does not obtain an absolute majority.
Without an absolute majority, Macron could struggle to push through key national reforms, such as the controversial raising of the retirement age from 62 to 65.
In his first term, Macron – dubbed “Jupiter” by the French media – was able to govern largely unopposed, but he now needs the support of opposition lawmakers to pass legislation.
“There will be a readjustment towards negotiation with different political forces,” Rim-Sarah Alouane, a doctoral student and researcher in comparative law at Toulouse 1 Capitole University, told Al Jazeera. “You have to find compromises, otherwise you cannot pass legislation.”
Without a majority, the National Assembly could see a total impasse on the main legislations. Macron faces challenges from both the newly united left and the far right. The leader of the conservative Les Républicains (Les Républicains) party has also claimed that the party opposes Macron.
“There is no question of a pact, or of a coalition, or of an agreement in any form whatsoever,” declared Christian Jacob after a council of Republicans on Monday.
Some of Macron’s parliamentary losses have come from the left. In 2017, Macron’s party received some support from center-left or moderate voters, but many of those voters abstained or joined the United Left.
In the 2017 elections, the left did not run as a united front, so votes were split between parties. But in 2022, the NUPES coalition, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who took third place in the 2022 presidential election, presented a united opposition to Macron. The alliance won 131 seats.
“Political and moral defeat”
Mélenchon called the elections “a political and moral defeat for Macron’s party”. Meanwhile, Marlière attributed Macron’s losses on the left to his politics and style of government.
“Since being elected president, Macron has been drifting to the right economically, but also on cultural and political issues,” he told Al Jazeera.
It is unclear whether NUPES will be able to maintain an alliance in the National Assembly, or whether, now elected, the parties will pursue their own agendas. Already, many have rejected Mélenchon’s proposal to form a single parliamentary group.
France’s far-right Rassemblement National party enjoyed unprecedented success, winning 89 seats – eleven times more than the 8 seats held during Macron’s first term.
Marine Le Pen, party leader and former presidential candidate, was re-elected MP for Pas-de-Calais with 61% of the vote. The far right is now the third largest group in the National Assembly.
Although Macron pledged to oppose the far right when elected in 2017, some of his policies have contributed to their success, according to Aurélien Mondon, lecturer and researcher on democracy, populism and racism. at the University of Bath.
“He ended up integrating a lot of their ideas and also choosing them as an alternative to the status quo. The status quo is so incredibly suspicious that he ended up playing into Marine Le Pen’s hands,” Mondon told Al Jazeera.
For the legislative elections, Macron failed to stir up opposition against the far right.
When the NUPES was against the candidates of the National Rally, 72% of Together! voters abstained from voting, while 16% voted for NUPES and 12% for the National Rally, according to IPSOS data.
On the right, 58% of Republican voters abstained in a vote between NUPES and National Rally, while 30% voted for National Rally and 12% for NUPES.
In previous elections, and as happened in the recent presidential election, many voters chose to vote against the far-right candidate in the second round, regardless of the other candidate’s platform.
“It was a normal thing to do in the past,” Mondon said. “It’s a voting system that should keep [the far right] outside the National Assembly.
With 89 deputies, the deputies of the Rassemblement national will have more speaking time during assembly meetings and more personnel.
Although the far-right does not have enough votes to create legislation on its own, the party will now receive 10 million euros ($10.5 million) in public funding per year, essentially double the previous mandate.
Part of these funds will probably be used to repay the National Rally’s debts to Russian banks, including a debt of 9 million euros (9.5 million dollars) to the Russian bank First Czech-Russian Bank (FCBR).
Beyond implications in the National Assembly, the biggest concern is “symbolic power” and affirmation for their supporters, according to Mondon.
“We will likely see emboldened actions against various communities that have been targeted by far-right policies,” he said.
Find a compromise
To secure an absolute majority, Macron could dissolve the National Assembly and call a snap election, but he is unlikely to do so.
“The results will be the same or even worse for Macron, and that will clearly bring more instability,” Alouane said.
The only other way forward is compromise. The Élysée announced that the president had invited party leaders in the National Assembly to meet him on Wednesday.
But to achieve a strong majority, experts fear Macron may go too far to the far right. Monday, the Minister of Justice Éric Dupond-Moretti suggested that Macron’s party would be ready to “move forward together” with the National Rally to advance legislation.
“The idea that they negotiate with the far right is still on the table,” Alouane said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they did find compromises with the far right.”
Despite the need for a majority, Macron’s party should be “intransigent” with the far right, according to Mondon. The focus should be on re-engaging voters who have lost faith in the system.
“There are many more French people disconnected from politics than French voters who vote for the far right. Abstention shows that there is a real crisis of democracy in France,” he said. “What we have seen this time is the end of the Republican Front, and Macron has just buried what was left of it.”