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A French Style Victory

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Photo: Jean-Luc Mélenchon (in center) aims to dismantle Emmanuel Macron's achievements. He relies on the previous powerful protest movement against pension reform, among other things. Source: Jean-Luc Mélenchon FB
Photo: Jean-Luc Mélenchon (in center) aims to dismantle Emmanuel Macron's achievements. He relies on the previous powerful protest movement against pension reform, among other things. Source: Jean-Luc Mélenchon FB

The elections in France concluded in a rather interesting and unexpected manner for many. Prior to the first round, most polls placed Macron's "Ensemble" alliance in third place, behind the left-wing "Popular Front" and the far-right "National Rally" (RN). The reality turned out to be somewhat different: the far-right "National Rally" came in third. None of the major forces managed to form a coalition by rallying smaller parties and blocs. Thus, Macron and his centrist alliance "Ensemble" will have to negotiate a government coalition with the left-wing "New Popular Front". However, this currently seems rather unrealistic. It is highly likely that the process of forming a government could prove to be extremely complex and painful for the participants in the government coalition, with an uncertain outcome.


"We will raise the minimum wage: by decree. But to achieve a rise in every professional field, you will have to mobilise everywhere. Our government will have the powers that the people give it in practice," announced Jean-Luc Mélenchon, considered the informal leader of the "New Popular Front" bloc, on X (formerly Twitter). Thus, there is no government yet, but the desire to fuel the spiral of inflation and unemployment is already present. This is because a forced increase in the minimum wage leads precisely to accelerated inflation and increased unemployment.


"Raise the minimum wage: by decree" - Jean-Luc Mélenchon, informal leader of the "New Popular Front" bloc.


Why is Mélenchon so bold, despite his bloc not having a majority? Because he holds the golden share, and the responsibility for the consequences of the new government coalition's policies is unlikely to fall on the left-wing bloc itself, with whom Emmanuel Macron and his "Ensemble" bloc will negotiate.


How the Snap Elections in France Unfolded

After the triumphant victory of the far-right "National Rally" (RN) in the European Parliament elections, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, the lower house of the country's parliament. The National Assembly has 577 deputies elected in single-member constituencies. The first round of voting took place on 30 June, but, as usual, a second round was required in most constituencies. However, 76 deputies were elected in the first round. These winners managed to secure more than 50% of the votes in their constituencies, granting them the right to parliamentary mandates a week ago.


In the second round, held on 7 July, 501 deputies were to be elected. To win in the second round, a candidate needed to secure a majority of the votes. A peculiar situation arose where candidates from the left-wing New Popular Front withdrew their candidacies in many constituencies to allow "Ensemble" candidates to defeat those from the far-right "National Rally". Conversely, in some constituencies, "Ensemble" candidates withdrew to enable a New Popular Front candidate to win.


The situation appears quite strange, doesn't it? After all, ideologically, the views of the supporters of the New Popular Front and "Ensemble" are completely different. However, the leaders decided to benefit from the fact that many voters were willing to vote in such proposed conditions not so much for "Ensemble", but against the National Rally, if a New Popular Front representative withdrew from the race. Conversely, in some cases, not so much for the New Popular Front, but against the National Rally, if an "Ensemble" representative withdrew from the race in a particular constituency.


The result actually pleased everyone except the far-right. For instance, if pre-election polls had given the New Popular Front a respectable 27% of the votes, they received slightly more in the first round - 28.21%. However, in the final result, they secured 180 mandates, or 31.2% of the seats in the National Assembly.


"Ensemble" was predicted to receive only 21% according to pre-election polls, and indeed, they received almost the same - 21.28% in the first round. However, the final result of 159 mandates looked significantly better, translating to 27.56% in the parliament.


The National Rally might have almost cried from the injustice: pre-election polls had painted 34% for them, and the first round provided almost as much - 33.21% of the votes. Yet, the final result after the second round guaranteed only 142 seats, or 24.61% of the total number of seats in the National Assembly. These are the quirks of a majoritarian electoral system. However, the National Rally should still be pleased with the fact that their representation in the National Assembly increased from 89 to 142 seats compared to the 2022 elections, more than one and a half times.


The left's representation also grew significantly, from 131 to 180 seats, more than a third. On the other hand, "Ensemble" reduced its presence by about a third compared to the 2022 elections. Of course, the number of deputies in the three key parliamentary factions may increase slightly due to the addition of the "free" winners of the elections.


Photo: The political spectrum in the French parliament is shifting to extreme ends. Source: The Gaze, Wiki



Dark Horse as Prime Minister

The unexpected outcome of the French elections has shuffled the deck in the selection of the head of government. Formally, it is President Emmanuel Macron who must nominate the future Prime Minister of France, but in reality, this figure must represent the dominant political force or coalition, if no single party in parliament holds a majority.


Naturally, the leaders of the New Popular Front, an alliance of four key left-wing parties — the Greens, the Communists, the Socialists, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon's movement "France Unbowed" (LFI) — would like to see their representative in this role. Mélenchon outright dismissed the possibility of any deal with the centrists during an appearance on the France 2 television channel: "The President must appoint someone from the New Popular Front as Prime Minister to implement the NFP programme, the entire programme, and nothing but the programme." This statement was made on Sunday, 7 July, when the French left was euphoric over the unexpectedly strong election results.


However, the problem is that this left-wing bloc is not unified. Moreover, during the campaign, it failed to promote a clear leader. The New Popular Front went into the election without a designated leader. This helped them secure the maximum number of seats in parliament but made their claims to the Prime Minister's office less realistic.


On the other hand, it was perfectly logical for the previous Prime Minister, 35-year-old Gabriel Attal, to be put forward as the leader by "Ensemble." From the National Rally, the even younger 28-year-old Jordan Bardella was actively promoted.


The left coalition has not given up yet. Various candidates are being discussed, but there is no consensus. On the one hand, the Socialists, in partnership with the Greens, could nominate the Socialist leader, 55-year-old Olivier Faure. Additionally, Politico believes that 48-year-old Boris Vallaud, with his extensive experience in public service, has better chances of being nominated from the Socialists and Greens. He was first elected as a deputy only seven years ago.


Furthermore, the Socialists have a trump card in the form of 69-year-old François Hollande, who was President of France from 2012 to 2017 and was elected as a deputy in 2024 after his presidency. However, it would be extremely difficult to "sell" Hollande to an ally like Mélenchon's "France Unbowed." Hollande has been highly critical of his former party members, including Mélenchon, who left the Socialist Party in 2008 to start his own ultra-left political project.


Externally, it appears that a technocrat from among the highest-ranking career civil servants might be recruited for the Prime Minister's post. This seems all the more likely since Mélenchon wants to roll back the achievements of the Macron-led government. For instance, he wants to raise the minimum wage, revoke Macron's pension reform, cap prices on key goods, and reintroduce the so-called "wealth tax." As for foreign policy, Mélenchon is an open Eurosceptic and very critical of NATO. He has repeatedly stated that the war in Ukraine is the result of NATO allegedly encroaching on Russia's borders.


In the meantime, the government continues to be led by Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who represents the centrist "Ensemble" and is close to Emmanuel Macron. Yes, Attal, as is customary after parliamentary elections, submitted his resignation. No, Macron did not accept it. Overall, the situation currently looks as though Emmanuel Macron could easily garner the laurels of France's saviour amidst the parliamentary turmoil.

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