Macron emerges weakened from the first round of the French legislative elections due to the advance of Mélenchon | International
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The struggle for power in France in the next five years will be between two: the centrist president Emmanuel Macron and the veteran leader of the anti-capitalist and eurosceptic left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The lists of Mélenchon and Macron, re-elected president in April, are even, according to the first projections of the first round of the legislative elections this Sunday, marked by a record abstention of 53%.
The macronistas leave weakened. However, they start as favorites in the second round next Sunday, to be the group with the most seats in the new National Assembly. But they have lost about seven points compared to the legislative five years ago. And his parliamentary group will be smaller than that of the term that is ending, which may limit his ability to manoeuvre.
According to the Ifop institute for the TF1 chain, Macron’s Ensemble (Together) list and the New Ecological and Social Popular Union (NUPES), Mélenchon’s leftist coalition, tied this Sunday in the first round with 25.9% of votes. In third position is the extreme right of the National Regrouping (RN) with 19.2%.
According to a projection by Ifop in number of seats, the macronistas would get between 275 and 310 deputies: the absolute majority threshold is 289. But the mélenchonistas, although they did not manage to be a majority after the second round and thus could not designate the future prime minister, would become the first opposition force, with between 180 and 210 deputies. It would be a considerable achievement for the French left after years of divisions and lackluster results at the polls. The RN, according to the same institute, would obtain between 10 and 25 deputies.
In the previous legislative elections, in 2017, Macron’s candidacy obtained, in the first round, 32.3% of the vote. All the parties that now make up the left-wing candidacy then added 25.5%.
“We are the only force in a position to obtain a majority in the National Assembly,” said the Prime Minister and Macronist candidate in Normandy, Élisabeth Borne, after learning of the progress of the polls. “We cannot run the risk of instability,” she declared in the face of Mélenchon’s strength. “We will not give in to extremes.”
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Mélenchon, for his part, proclaimed that “the presidential party is defeated and undone.” And he added: “I call on our people to unleash a wave next Sunday.”
On June 19, in the second round, it will be decided how France is governed in the coming years and how much power Macron has to impose his agenda, which includes a complex pension reform. If Macron achieves an absolute majority in the National Assembly, he would have a free hand, as in the last five years, to apply his program. But it is possible that the majority is only relative: that is to say, that although the macronistas have the group with the most seats, they do not reach 289, half plus one of the 577. Then they should agree with other forces, possibly with the moderate right .
The third possibility: that it is Mélenchon who has the majority and that he forces Macron to appoint him prime minister. Mélenchon has based his entire campaign on this ambition. France would then enter what, in political jargon, is known as cohabitation: a president and a prime minister of different political signs. The last cohabitation was between 1997 and 2002, when the president was the conservative Jacques Chirac and the prime minister, the socialist Lionel Jospin.
The polls, however, give little chance of cohabitation. Macron is unpopular with a sizeable section of the French population, and has not enjoyed a grace period after being re-elected in April and appointing a caretaker government with the centre-left technocrat Borne as prime minister. But his rival on the left is not in a better position. An Ifop poll indicates that 69% of French people do not want Mélenchon to be prime minister.
The legislative ones are, in reality, 577 simultaneous elections in 577 constituencies to elect 577 seats. Each election is held in two rounds. The two candidates with the most votes in each constituency have qualified for the second (those who obtained more than 12.5%, not of the voters, but of the total number of registered voters, could also be classified). The future deputies will be the winners of each of these duels.
Macron’s advantage in the second round is the central position he occupies on the political chessboard. When a macronista candidate faces another melenchonista, the macronista can bring together the entire vote from the center to the right, even a part of the extreme right. And vice versa. When a macronista faces a candidate from the extreme right of Le Pen, he can appeal to the vote of the extreme left, the left, the center and the moderate right to stop the extreme right.
The risk for Macron is that it is the candidates from the extremes who attract the protest vote and that of the French convinced that the power of the president must be limited in the next five years.
In 2017, Macron obtained 348 deputies in the National Assembly; the traditional right, 129; the left, 58 and Le Pen, eight. These legislative ones will illuminate a very different Chamber. The profound transformation of the French political landscape, which began five years ago with Macron’s first victory, continues in these elections.
Abstention is entrenched in France
It is already a routine: rare is, for a few years, the election in which in France records of abstentionism are not broken. The 53% abstention in Sunday’s elections is the highest in a first round of legislative elections since the Fifth Republic, the current constitutional system, was founded in 1958. In the first round of 2017, abstention already broke a record, rising to 51.3%. And 10 years ago, it had reached a maximum level of 42.8%.
The disinterest of more than half of the voters can be explained by electoral fatigue, after the two presidential rounds in April. But the trend goes back a long way. In the same presidential elections, the highest abstention was recorded in an election of this type since 1969: 28.01%. Something similar happened in the 2020 regional elections, when 66% of voters avoided going to the polls: a record not only in a regional election, but in any election, except the 2000 referendum to shorten the presidential term from seven to five years .
The abstentionists tend to be the youngest and the working classes, which is why it harms, above all, the extreme right of Marine Le Pen and to a lesser extent the left of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Those who tend to mobilize more, on the other hand, are retirees and the French with higher educational and purchasing levels: the voters of President Emmanuel Macron.
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