French elections: Macron loses absolute majority in parliament in a “democratic shock”

  • 289 seats needed for an absolute majority
  • Macron’s camp falls at the right time
  • Early results point to suspended parliament
  • The left alliance considered the main opposition group
  • The far right wins major victories

PARIS, June 19 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron lost control of the National Assembly in Sunday’s legislative elections, a major setback that could plunge the country into political paralysis if he is unable to to negotiate alliances with other parties.

Macron’s centrist Ensemble coalition, which wants to raise the retirement age and further deepen European integration, was on course to win the most seats in Sunday’s election.

But they will be far short of the absolute majority needed to control parliament, near-final results showed.

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A broad left-wing alliance was expected to be the biggest opposition group, while the far right won record victories and the conservatives were likely to become kingmakers.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the result a “democratic shock” and added that if other blocs did not cooperate, “it would block our ability to reform and protect the French”.

A hung parliament will require a degree of power-sharing and compromise between parties unprecedented in France in recent decades. Read more

There is no set scenario in France for how things will now play out. The last time a newly elected president failed to secure an absolute majority in legislative elections was in 1988.

“The result is a risk for our country given the challenges we face,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said, adding that from Monday Macron’s camp will work to seek alliances.

Macron could potentially call a snap election if there is a legislative deadlock.

“The rout of the presidential party is complete and there is no clear majority in sight,” far-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon told his cheering supporters.

Left Liberation called the result a “slap in the face” for Macron, and the business daily Les Echos an “earthquake”.

ALLIANCES?

United behind Mélenchon, the left-wing parties were on track to triple their score since the last legislative election in 2017.

In another significant change for French politics, far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party could increase the number of MPs tenfold with up to 90 to 95 seats, according to initial projections. This would be the party’s largest representation in the Assembly.

Early projections from Ifop, OpinionWay, Elabe and Ipsos pollsters showed Macron’s Ensemble alliance winning 230-250 seats, with the left-wing Nupes alliance getting 141-175 and Les Républicains 60-75.

Macron in April became the first French president in two decades to win a second term as voters rallied to keep the far right out of power.

But, seen as out of touch by many voters, he presides over a deeply disenchanted and divided country where support for populist parties on the right and left has surged.

His ability to pursue reform of the euro zone’s second-largest economy depends on winning support for his policies from moderates outside his alliance, on the right and on the left.

MODERATE?

Macron and his allies must now decide whether to seek an alliance with the conservative Republicans, who came in fourth, or lead a minority government that will have to negotiate bills with other parties on a case-by-case basis.

“There are moderates on the benches, on the right, on the left. There are moderate socialists and there are people on the right who, perhaps, on legislation, will be on our side,” the door said. -Government spokesperson Olivia Grégoire.

The Republican platform is more compatible with Ensemble than the other parties. The two together have a chance of securing an absolute majority in the final results, which requires at least 289 seats in the lower house.

Christian Jacob, the leader of the Republicans, said his party would remain in opposition but would be “constructive”, suggesting case-by-case deals rather than a coalition pact.

Former National Assembly leader Richard Ferrand and Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon lost their seats, in two major defeats for Macron’s camp.

Macron had called for a strong mandate during a bitter campaign against the backdrop of a war on Europe’s eastern fringe that has tightened food and energy supplies and driven up inflation, eroding household budgets.

The Nupes de Melenchon alliance has campaigned to freeze the prices of essential goods, lower the retirement age, cap inheritances and ban companies that pay dividends from laying off workers. Melenchon also calls for disobedience towards the European Union.

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Additional reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Michel Rose, Richard Lough, John Irish, Juliette Jabkhiro, Caroline Pailliez, Layli Foroudi; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Barbara Lewis, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis

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