French Legislative Elections: Macron coalition narrowly wins first round

French Legislative Elections: Macron coalition narrowly wins first round
French President Emmanuel Macron. Credit: Belga

In the first round of France's legislative elections, French President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition Ensemble! ("Together!"), have narrowly secured victory, according to results communicated by the country's Interior Minister.

Macron beat opponent Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing Nupes alliance by just 21,4412 votes – still leaving Mélenchon’s coalition with the chance of destroying Macron’s majority on Sunday, when the candidates who did not meet the 50% threshold for votes will go into the second run-off round, scheduled for 19 June.

The legislative elections decide France’s 577 deputies who will debate and vote on laws within the National Assembly, the lower house of the bicameral French Parliament. If Macron loses his majority here, he will struggle to pass legislation.

In that case, Macron will be forced to enter into “cohabitation” with his opponents and deal with the requests of the opposing majority in the assembly.

Macron’s alliance won 25.75% of the vote, while Mélenchon’s coalition came close with 25.66%. Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party gained 19.1% of the vote, followed by the Republicans with 13.9%, and extreme-right Éric Zemmour’s Reconquest! party with 4.1%.

Strong year for the left

According to polling institute Ipsos-Sopra, Macron is set to keep his current control over the legislative branch. The current seat projections for each party are 255-295 seats for Macron's Ensemble!, 150-190 seats for Nupes, 50-80 seats for the Republicans, and 20-45 seats for National Rally.

For the French left, this was an extremely strong performance compared to poor results in previous elections. Mélenchon succeeded in uniting the major left-wing parties, La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), Socialist, Green, and Communist parties into a broad coalition to challenge Macron.

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The French far-right, despite a disappointing year for the National Rally, is set to hold onto its stronghold in the north. Le Pen is set to win the 11th district in Pas-de-Calais, a seat held since 2017. The group currently has eight seats in the National Assembly, but will need a further eight to form a parliamentary group. This is still possible, depending on the results of the run-off.

The biggest losers of the first round of the election was Zemmour, who will not gain any representation in the National Assembly. The far-right politician failed to move to the second round in his bid to contest the Saint Tropez seat. No candidate will move forward into the run-offs, dashing the party's electoral ambitions.

Voters abstain en masse

The most notable result of the first round of elections is the growing rate of abstention, which reached a record high of 52.49%.

French voters are increasingly disgruntled, feeling unrepresented by French political parties. In the presidential elections in April, 28% of the population, or 13.6 million, abstained from the second round of the election.

A low turnout undermines the mandate of those elected and weakens the very premise of a democratic government: if voters do not participate in elections it makes it difficult for those who pass laws to credibly claim that they are legitimate rules that all citizens should follow.

The left-wing coalition has pleaded with its voters, who often choose to abstain from the elections, to support the party at the ballot on 19 June.

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