French President Emmanuel Macron lost his parliamentary majority on Sunday after major electoral gains by a newly formed left-wing and far-right alliance, dealing a blow to his plans for major second-term reform.
The result threw French politics into turmoil, raising the prospect of a crippled legislature or messy coalitions with Macron forced to reach out to new allies.
Macron’s “Ensemble” coalition was on course to be the largest party in the next National Assembly, but with 200 to 260 seats, it will miss the 289 seats needed for a majority, according to a series of projections from five security companies. French poll after Sunday second round.
“Of course, it’s a disappointing first place,” government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire told BFM television. “We are below what we would have hoped for.”
The result badly tarnished Macron’s victory in April’s presidential election when he beat the far-right to be the first French president to win a second term in more than two decades.
The new left-wing coalition NUPES led by 70-year-old hard left figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon was on course to win 149 to 200 seats, according to projections.
The coalition, formed in May after the breakup of the left for the presidential elections in April, brings together socialists, the hard left, communists and greens.
The left had just 60 seats in the outgoing parliament, meaning it could triple its representation.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party was also on course for huge gains after securing just eight seats in the outgoing parliament.
He was to send 60 to 102 deputies to the new parliament, according to projections.
Macron, 44, had hoped to buffer his second term with an ambitious program of lower taxes, reform of social protection and raising the retirement age which is now in question.
“It will complicate the reforms… It will be much more difficult to govern,” said Dominique Rousseau, a law professor at Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne University.
As president, Macron retains control of foreign policy, with the 44-year-old seeking to play a leading role in ending the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Disappointing first place”
Melenchon called Sunday’s results “first and foremost an electoral failure” for Macron. “The rout of the presidential party is total and there will be no majority,” in parliament, he told cheering supporters in Paris.
A prominent MP from Melenchon’s party, Alexis Corbiere, said the result meant Macron’s plan to raise France’s retirement age to 65 had been “sunk”.
“The slap,” headlined Monday’s edition of the left-leaning Liberation, adding that the results represented the “downfall” of Macron’s way of governing.
Le Pen hailed a historic result for his party, saying he would send “by far” its largest number of deputies to the next National Assembly.
There could now be weeks of political stalemate as the president seeks to reach out to new parties.
The most likely option would be an alliance with the Republicans (LR), France’s traditional right-wing party, which is on course to win 40-80 seats.
“We will work with anyone who wants to move the country forward,” Grégoire told France 2.
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire denied that France would be ungovernable but admitted “it would take a lot of imagination” on the part of the ruling party in an “unprecedented situation”.
Ministers in danger
The nightmare scenario for the president – with the left winning a majority and Melenchon leading the government – seems to have been ruled out.
But it was a dismal night for Macron, who last week called on voters to give his coalition a “solid majority”, adding that “nothing would be worse than adding French disorder to global disorder”.
The ruling party’s campaign had been clouded by growing concern over rising prices, while new Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne failed to make an impact in a sometimes lackluster campaign.
In another blow, leading ministers running for office were to lose their jobs under a convention that they would have to resign if they do not win seats.
Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon was beaten by the far right in the battle for her seat, while Maritime Minister Justine Benin lost her seat in the French Caribbean.
French Europe Minister Clément Beaune and Environment Minister Amélie de Montchalin face tough challenges in their constituencies, both prepared to quit government if defeated.
Two close Macron allies, Speaker of Parliament Richard Ferrand and former Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, have both admitted defeat in the fight for their seats.
Turnout was expected to be low, with pollsters predicting an abstention rate of 53.5-54%, higher than in the first round but not beating the worst turnout record of 2017.
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