The French Jupiter may be about to discover a culture of compromise

BERLIN – Since 2002, when the French legislative elections were postponed a few months after the presidential election, the party of the head of state who has just been elected has never failed to obtain a majority. Voting to elect the National Assembly, which had previously been in the middle of presidential terms, was therefore treated as little more than a formality. The political debate was settled in the presidential election, and the assumption was that voters were bound to grant the president they had just elected a working majority (at least 289 seats) in parliament.

The second round of this year’s legislative elections, due to be held on June 19, may well break this pattern. According to a The world After analyzing the results of the first round on June 12, the New People’s, Ecological and Social Union (Nupes), an electoral alliance led by veteran leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is slightly ahead of Ensemble, Emmanuel Macron’s party, who has just won a second term as president. However, the official results put Ensemble just ahead of Nupes, based on a different categorization of individual candidates, notably in overseas territories. The Nupes electoral pact was concluded a few days after the presidential election in April and is made up of Mélenchon’s France Insoumise, the Socialist Party, the Green Party and the Communist Party.

An Ifop-Fiducial projection now has Ensemble winning 265-300 seats, which at the lower end would be 30 seats below the majority. Nupes could not win a majority, according to projections, but would manage to roughly triple the number of parliamentary seats held by its constituent parties, which collectively won around 60 MPs in the 2017 elections. Center-right Republicans will be even more weakened, with 40-65 seats. The far-right National Rally will be able, for the first time in decades, to form a substantial parliamentary group with its 20 to 40 deputies.

The real prospect of losing his majority clearly worries the outgoing president. A few days before the second round, before a trip to Romania on June 14, Macron called on French voters to grant his party “a solid majority” in the name of “the higher interest of the nation”. This is a rare foray into the legislative election campaign, from which he has largely stayed away.

[See also: Exclusive polling shows leftist Mélenchon ahead in parliamentary race]

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What would Nupes denying Macron a parliamentary majority mean for France? If Ensemble were short by a few dozen seats, the president would have two options. The first would be to start negotiations with deputies from small parties, most likely the Republicans, to encourage them to join the government majority. The success of the left could have the effect of forcing Macron to the right.

The president’s second option would be to form a minority government, making ad hoc deals with smaller parties to pass laws. If the government were unable to obtain a majority, it could in extremis resort to article 49-3 of the French Constitution, which allows the government to pass laws without a vote while opening it up to a vote of confidence. The measure can be used once per parliamentary session.

In either case, factions of MPs on the right and left of the governing coalition would suddenly find themselves kingmakers. On the right, these include the Republicans and Horizons, the center-right party founded by Macron’s first prime minister, Édouard Philippe, which is expected to win 21 to 26 seats as part of the Ensemble alliance.

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It is also possible that disgruntled deputies from the left of Ensemble are organizing to try to force the president into a more social-democratic orientation, echoing the disputes of the former socialist president François Hollande with a bloc of about fifty left-wing activists. rebels (dissident deputies of the presidential party unhappy with his turn to the right). The Hollande government has repeatedly resorted to article 49-3 because of the obstructionism of this faction.

There is little culture of parliamentarism in the politics of a country accustomed to being governed by extremely powerful presidents who, for more than two decades, rarely had to negotiate with parliament. The Jupiterian Macron having to learn to compromise and negotiate might not be such a bad thing.

“This republican monarchy, vertical and imperious, would be forced to learn what is the rule in all European democracies except France: a culture of compromise”, write Laurent Joffin and Hervé Gattegno in opinion. “To gather a majority, the executive would have to negotiate – yes! – with this or that faction of the opposition.

The United Left, which has in its program the abolition of the French presidential system and its replacement by a parliamentary democracy, will probably not succeed in winning enough deputies to form a government, but if it refuses a majority to Macron, it could well succeed in giving parliament a more significant role than it has had for a long time and bring a little of the Sixth Republic that it offers to the institutions of the Fifth.

[See also: Macron’s win can’t hide a fractured France]

Helen D. Jessen