French President Emmanuel Macron has lost control of the National Assembly in legislative elections after significant gains by a newly formed left-wing alliance, and record wins by the far-right.
The result, announced in the early hours of Monday, threw French politics into turmoil, raising the prospect of a paralysed legislature unless Macron is able to negotiate alliances with other parties.
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.
Macron, 44, also risks being distracted by domestic problems as he seeks to play a prominent role in putting an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and as a key statesman in the European Union.
The president’s centrist Ensemble coalition will still be the biggest party in the next National Assembly. But with 245 seats, according to full interior ministry results, it is well short of the 289 seats needed for a majority in the 577-member chamber that he had enjoyed since 2017.
“This situation constitutes a risk for our country, given the challenges that we have to confront. We will work from tomorrow to build a working majority”, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said in a televised statement. “
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the outcome a “democratic shock” and promised to reach out to all pro-European parties to help govern the country.
The result severely tarnished Macron’s April presidential election victory when he defeated the far-right to become the first French president to win a second term in more than two decades. It also raises questions over Macron’s ability to deliver on his second-term agenda, including tax cuts, welfare reform and raising the retirement age.
“It’s a turning point for his image of invincibility,” said Bruno Cautres, a researcher at the Centre for Political Research of Sciences Po..
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.