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French election: Macron’s coalition should win, but will be weakened in Parliament

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Credit…Pool photo by Michel Spinler

PARIS — In a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron, his centrist coalition was set to lose its strong majority in the lower house of parliament on Sunday, after crucial elections that saw the far-right and an alliance of left-wing parties surge in numbers seats, leaving him with a slim lead and complicating his second term.

Projections based on the preliminary vote count gave Mr Macron’s centrist coalition 205 to 250 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, the lower and most powerful house of parliament – more than any other political group, but less than half of all seats.

For the first time in 20 years, a newly elected president appears to have failed to secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly, which will not stop Mr. Macron’s national agenda, but will return power to parliament after a first mandate. during which Mr. Macron’s top-down style of government had mostly sidelined lawmakers.

The results were a rebuke from Mr Macron who seemed disengaged in the campaign and more concerned about France’s diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. Speaking on an airport tarmac ahead of a trip to Eastern Europe that took him to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv last week, he urged voters to give him a “solid majority” for ” the best interests of the nation”, but he did. little campaign itself.

“This is not the result we were hoping for,” Gabriel Attal, Mr Macron’s budget minister, told television channel TF1 on Sunday, acknowledging that his party and its allies should “find stability” in parliament. they wanted it. to pass legislation.

Mr Macron’s recently appointed prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, was expected to win her race, as was Gérald Darmanin, his tough-spoken interior minister. But several of his main allies seemed to have lost, including Richard Ferrand, the president of the National Assembly, and Amélie de Montchalin, his minister for the green transition – a scathing rebuke for the president, who had sworn that ministers who did not had failed to win a seat should resign.

The alliance of left-wing parties, known as the Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale, or NUPES, and led by veteran leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was expected to win 150 to 190 seats. The alliance includes France insoumise, the party of Mr. Mélenchon, as well as the socialists, the greens and the communists.

This was not enough to take control of the National Assembly and force Mr. Macron to appoint Mr. Mélenchon Prime Minister, as the left-wing coalition had hoped. But it was a good showing for parties that had been widely seen as hopelessly divided. Much of the campaign has been a deadly confrontation between the left-wing coalition and Mr Macron’s forces, with both sides describing a potential victory for their opponents as a total disaster.

Mr Mélenchon, in a speech to cheering supporters in Paris on Sunday, called the results “absolutely incredible”.

“The defeat of the presidential party is total,” he said. “We have achieved the political objective that we set ourselves.”

The alliance he has brought together will be the main opposition force in the National Assembly, but major political differences between the members of the coalition on issues such as the European Union could resurface once the Parliament is in session later this month.

In 2017, when Mr Macron was first elected, his party and his allies won a commanding majority of 350 seats in the lower house of parliament, which was largely in line with his plans.

This time, with a much smaller majority and much stronger opposition on the left and far right, Mr Macron’s centrist coalition, known as Ensemble, may struggle to push through some draft bills. law, potentially forcing him across the aisle to oppose lawmakers to secure a bill’s passage.

“How the president will be able to govern through his prime minister is rather uncertain at the moment,” said Etienne Ollion, a sociologist and professor at the Polytechnique engineering school.

It was not immediately clear what other allies Mr Macron’s coalition might find in parliament to form a working majority, although Mr Ollion said the most likely party would be the centre-right Les Républicains party, which is expected to win 60 to 80 seats. . Mr Macron will be far more dependent on his centrist allies than he was in his first term, including pushing through contentious plans like his plan to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 65.

The vote was also marred by a record turnout on Sunday, a wake-up call for Mr Macron, who has promised to govern as closely as possible to the people for his second term. According to projections, only around 46% of the French electorate turned out to vote, the second lowest level since 1958.

The National Rally, the party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, was expected to win 75 to 100 seats in the National Assembly, far more than expected after its convincing defeat to Mr Macron in the presidential election of April and then ran a lackluster campaign for the parliamentarian.

That would make it the third largest political force in the lower house and a much stronger force than the handful of lawmakers it has had so far. Ms Le Pen herself was easily re-elected to her seat in a constituency in northern France.

“This group will be by far the largest in the history of our political family,” Ms. Le Pen said in a speech on Sunday, promising her supporters that she would defend the party’s hard line on immigration and security.