President Emmanuel Macron has lost his majority in France’s National Assembly after a strong showing in Sunday’s legislative elections by a left-green opposition alliance and a late surge from the extreme right.
France’s hung parliament means that Macron will need to strike deals with other parties in the assembly to pass legislation over the next five years and his ministers will face a turbulent ride in parliamentary debates.
Final results from the interior ministry on Monday showed that Macron’s centrist Ensemble (Together) alliance had won 245 seats in the assembly, well short of the 289 needed for the outright majority that he had enjoyed since 2017.
The left-green alliance formed by far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon — the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (Nupes) — was supported by many young urban voters and emerged as the main opposition bloc with 131 members in the 577-seat chamber.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National was the big surprise of the night and won 89 seats — more than 10 times as many as the eight it secured in the previous legislative elections. The conservative Les Républicains and its partners won 74 seats.
Élisabeth Borne, Macron’s prime minister, who announced there would be a government reshuffle, said in a post-election speech that the situation was “unprecedented” and represented “a risk for the country”. Bruno Le Maire, finance minister, admitted the results were “disappointing” and said the government would have to be “imaginative” to enact its next round of reforms.
Borne vowed that the government would start work on Monday to build a National Assembly majority that could do business, including pursuing Macron’s aims of full employment and an “ambitious ecological transition” to combat climate change by investing in renewable energy.
Mélenchon told cheering supporters that Macron had suffered a “total defeat” and that his alliance was the new face of France’s historic “upwellings of rebellion and revolution”.
Jordan Bardella, president of Le Pen’s Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party, said the RN had made “a historic breakthrough”. A smiling Le Pen, who was elected with 61 per cent of the votes in her northern constituency, said French who were concerned about migrants, crime and injustice would have a powerful group defending their interests in parliament.
Mélenchon’s Nupes — which includes the French Socialist, Communist and green parties as well as his own far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) — is expected by convention to hold the chair of the assembly’s crucial finance committee after replacing Les Républicains as the chief opposition.
But the far-right RN, as the largest single opposition party, also claimed a right to the position on Monday.
Macron’s Ensemble nevertheless won more seats than any other party, sparing him 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, Macron also retains control over national defence and foreign policy.
Macron and Borne will, however, need to forge a coalition agreement or temporary deals with other parties — most likely the conservative LR — in order to pass laws. That includes the next round of economic reforms, including the president’s plan to simplify the costly pension system and increase the official retirement age to 65 from 62 — a proposal that is bitterly opposed by the left and contested by leading trade unions.
Aurélien Pradié, LR secretary-general, blamed Macron for what promises to be a “cacophonous” situation in parliament but said on Franceinfo radio that his party would vote with or against the government on a case-by-case basis.
In April, Macron beat Le Pen in the final round of the presidential election, becoming the first incumbent in 20 years to win a second term. He has now also become the first since 2002 to fail to secure a majority in the National Assembly after his own election.
The left claimed several scalps from Macron’s team, with Nupes candidates beating Christophe Castaner, a former interior minister who has been head of Macron’s party in the assembly, and Richard Ferrand, the assembly’s outgoing chair.
Some of Macron’s ministers will also lose their jobs according to his rule that ministers who stand for election and lose must step down.
Brigitte Bourguignon, health minister, lost by 56 votes to a far-right candidate in northern France, and Amélie de Montchalin, environment minister, lost to the left in Essonne, south of Paris. In one constituency in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Justine Benin, junior minister for the sea, was beaten by a leftwing rival.