Analysis: Macron’s centered plan for French politics has resulted in a land grab from fringe parties


It is not to be overlooked that the loss of its parliamentary majority in this weekend’s parliamentary elections is a major blow to French President Emmanuel Macron.

While his center-right alliance, Ensemble !, took the largest share in Sunday’s second round of elections – winning 245 out of 577 seats – it was the lack of the 289 required for an absolute majority.

Macron’s coalition will now try to build alliances in parliament so it can pass legislation.

Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said on Sunday evening: “From tomorrow, we will work to build an action-oriented majority. There is no alternative to that coalition to guarantee the stability of our country and implement the necessary reforms. ”

These reforms include raising the retirement age and having a more pro-business agenda, both of which have been met with opposition from across the political spectrum, including protests during Macron’s first term. He also wants to push for greater integration into the EU and has posed as the bloc’s de facto leader since former German Chancellor Angela Merkel left office last year.

Philippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at University College London, believes that “Macron will try to govern through ad hoc alliances on certain issues,” but points out that the opposition parties may want to wait and see if Macron dissolves parliament and ” have another choice in a year or so. ”

Analysts already describe Sunday’s election result as a major personal failure for the French president – someone who could tarnish his legacy.

The pan-left coalition NUPES, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, won 131 seats.

When Macron was first elected in 2017, he did so as a relative unknown, leading a political movement that seemed to come from nowhere, brushing France’s traditional center-left and center-right to the side.

“Macron’s goal was, in a way, to depoliticize French politics. He wanted a large center that had people from both the left and the right who would try to solve France’s problems with non-partisan common sense, “Gérard Araud, former French ambassador to the United States, told CNN.

“This instead created a sense that the only real alternatives to Macron’s centrists were politicians from the fringes of the left and right,” he added.

Araud’s analysis is difficult to dispute. The second largest political force now sitting in France’s National Assembly is the left-wing coalition New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES), led by the far left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The third largest is Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally. Le Pen was Macron’s opponent in the second round of the presidential election in April, where she secured 41% of the popular vote.

The French right-wing National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, finished third with 89 seats.

Aurelien Mondon, a senior lecturer at the University of Bath, specializing in European right-wing politics and radicalization, says Macron’s biggest failure may be the normalization of Le Pen and the far right more broadly.

“The idea of ​​a large center that created a horseshoe, with Macron and his centrists flanked by the far right and far left, meant that Le Pen could place himself in the same category as NUPES,” Mondon explains.

While NUPES has some radicals, including Mélenchon himself, it also counts among its members the Greens and Socialists, who have been mainstream French parties for years.

Mondon says a record number of seats in parliament will allow Le Pen to claim this result “as an effective victory and nurture the idea that the far right is marching ever closer to power in France and across the rest of Europe. . ”

There is no doubt that Macron’s victory in 2017 was historic. In a world of Brexit and Donald Trump, his centrist, pro-European victory was welcomed by many who feared the political instability felt worldwide.

That victory now feels like a very long time ago, and it’s hard to see what will happen to Macron’s political center once he is no longer in power. Even harder to predict is what will happen to the voters who oppose Macron after he leaves: Can they be tempted to return to the center of French politics, or will they slip further out on the fringes of left and right?

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