French President Emmanuel Macron’s parliamentary alliance won a large majority five years ago. This time, there is a new left bloc in the bloc that seeks to eat up the seats of the centrists. Whether you take a small bite or a large bite, it will determine how France is run for the next five years.
France’s parliamentary vote takes place in two rounds on June 12 and 19. But for citizens living abroad, the first round of voting closed last Sunday. Unsurprisingly, Macron’s candidates emerged victorious in most constituencies, with the notable exceptions of Spain, Andorra, Portugal and Monaco, where former Prime Minister Manuel Valls was eliminated. For the first time, all expats had the option to vote online, although many reported difficulties doing so.

POLITICO’s aggregate poll has voting intentions in the first round neck-and-neck between Ensemble, the ruling coalition, and NUPES, the leftist alliance led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

One time the sauce is done, polls predict that Ensemble is more likely to reach a majority. This is mainly because the left vote is more concentrated in fewer, mostly urban, constituencies compared to the more widespread centrist vote.

But other factors also come into play, such as turnout, demographics, and the voting system itself. To understand the dynamics of legislative elections like a true pro, we need to dig deeper.

the nuts and bolts

France’s legislative elections are held every five years, two months after the presidential vote (the country went from a seven-year presidential term to five years in 2002). The legislatures determine the deputies, or deputieswho sit in the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament.

Candidates fight in two rounds to be elected as representatives of a constituency, or circumscription. These were last created in 2010, when they represented 125,000 people each, although population figures have changed since then. There are 577 constituencies, including 11 overseas.

A candidate can win in the first round if he receives at least half of the votes cast, as well as the votes of at least a quarter of the registered voters in the constituency. Otherwise, the candidate who obtains the most votes in the second round becomes a deputy.

To make it to the second round, candidates must receive the votes of at least 12.5 percent of registered voters. If only one of them makes it, they will face the next best scorer. If neither does, the top two will face each other.

Being a first step rather than a proportional system (second-place candidates lose even if they receive up to 49 percent of the vote), the election tends to produce a clear majority in parliament.

What powers are there to play?

In addition to proposing, amending, and voting on legislation, the National Assembly’s powers include launching official investigations, questioning ministers, and holding votes of no confidence.

Clearly, the fewer seats the ruling party has, the more scrutiny it will face. But an absolute majority of 289 seats or more means that no negotiation with other parties is needed to pass the legislation.

Due to their huge majority, the Macronists have so far been able to churn out laws, voting some 354 since June 2017, when Macron took the helm at the Elysee, even if some of the most controversial were revised after constitutional interventions. Advice.

Macron’s leaky vehicle

Voters tend to choose members of parliament who come from the same political family as the president they just elected, but according to an Ipsos poll, things could be slightly different this time: as many as a fifth of those who voted for Macron in the first round of the presidential election intend to vote for a left or right party in the legislative elections.

If Ensemble loses enough support, its core party, Macron’s La République en marche (LREM), may face further challenges from its partners, notably the Mouvement Democrate, led by former Minister of Justice François Bayrou, and Horizons, led by former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. It is widely speculated that Philippe is preparing his own presidential candidacy.

Ensemble may not even win an absolute majority, in which case it would have to find more coalition partners to increase its number of seats. The traditionally conservative Les Républicains party would be the obvious choice, but party leader Christian Jacob has ruled out any alliance.

Feeling the need to reinvent itself, LREM will be renamed Renaissance in July, under a new charter that Le Parisien reports aims to make it more robust and attractive. How Macron’s legislative vehicle performs in parliamentary elections will determine whether it needs a fresh coat of paint or a completely new engine.

Melenchon Prime Minister‘?

Those words adorn campaign posters for the radical leftist leader of NUPES, who is so confident of a possible victory that he has referred to Élisabeth Borne, France’s newly appointed prime minister, as his “predecessor.”

Building on its best result in the presidential election, Mélenchon believes that NUPES can beat Ensemble, win a majority, unseat Borne and usher in the first “cohabitation” government -where the president and the prime minister belong to opposing parties, since 2002.

“Mélenchon for Prime Minister” posters, part of the NUPES parliamentary election campaign, Paris, June 2, 2022 | Photo by Peter O’Brien
Such a situation neutralizes the president’s ability to implement reforms, handing over much of the policy-making power to the prime minister and his majority in parliament.

Our survey suggests that the chances of this happening are extremely slim. Mélenchon is not running for re-election as deputy for Bouches-du-Rhône, Marseille, and insists that he will be prime minister. Yet Mélenchon, even without a seat in parliament, let alone the position of prime minister, could still prove more influential than ever. In the most likely scenario of becoming the main opposition force in parliament, the forceful speaker leading France’s new left will not hesitate to block Macron’s agenda.

How far will the extreme right go?

The National Association led by Marine Le Pen is on the way to a historic result in the first round of the legislative elections. The party is predicted to win about a fifth of the popular vote, compared to less than 14 percent in 2017 and 2012, when it was known as the National Front.

However, securing seats is an uphill climb, mainly because their candidates usually come in third place in the first round, and the 12.5 per cent rule means it is difficult for many of them to make it to the second round, and much less win it. when they run against a centrist candidate.

Will the voters show up?

Since they were timed to happen one after another, the presidential race has historically overshadowed the parliamentary election. But even on the presidential vote, abstention has been on the rise since 2007. This year, at 26 percent in the first round and 28 percent in the second, abstention was particularly high due to the apparent lack of options and the war in Ukraine.

Expect there to be even less interest in the legislative ones, whose turnout has been declining since the 1990s. In 2017, it fell below 50 percent for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, and polls suggest this time it could be even lower.

However, this figure is crucial to the result, again due to the 12.5 percent rule. The greater the number of people who vote, the larger the pool of candidates that make it to the second round.

Demographics are also key. Currently, the older you are in France, the more likely you are to vote, and the more likely you are to vote for Macron’s candidates. If there is going to be a surprise, it will be from the younger generations.

I am not French. Why should I care?

With war just around the corner, political stability and who has the power to pass laws in France, a leading force in the EU, are of great importance.

The world is watching as France advances European sovereignty and implements a landmark EU regulation like the Digital Services Law, which will be determined in part by the work of its parliament. In the unlikely event of a big surprise, we could be looking at a Eurosceptic Prime Minister in Mélenchon, who plans to “disobey” EU rules. And that’s in the case of a softer stance than he has often taken in the past.

If the president retains his majority, those responsible for foreign policy will also be attentive to the fruits of the series of laws voted in the last five years and how they have affected French society.

“There are things that we have voted for that we now have to comply with,” said Bruno Studer, LREM MP and chairman of the parliamentary committee on culture and education, “we have to make sure that they are implemented correctly.”

Complying with existing laws made under Macron, as well as promoting new ones, might not be as simple under a weaker presidential alliance, particularly for controversial reforms like pensions.

In the longer term, demographic change is one to watch. As it stands, France’s support for centrist politics will be replaced by a greater left-right divide as its population ages. It is a trend that will change the face of one of Europe’s key powers.

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