A victory with a taste of defeat: President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble alliance is certainly in the lead in the second and final round of the legislative elections, but far from an absolute majority in the face of the strong breakthrough of the united left as well as the National Rally, according to exit polls.
If confirmed, these unprecedented results ask the question of whether Macron will be able to pass the reforms he promised when he was reelected in April, including lowering taxes, raising the retirement age, and welfare program reform.
According to first estimates, Macron’s Ensemble is poised to end up with between 200 and 260 seats based on different polls, far from its objective of reaching an absolute majority of 289 deputies out of 577.
The Macron camp will now have to battle against a powerful united left coalition NUPES and its leader, the hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, who labelled Sunday’s results as “the electoral failure of Macronism”.
NUPES is to become the main opposition force with between 149 and 203 deputies in the National Assembly, according to various polling institutes.
The parliamentary election — the fourth in two months after the presidential election — was largely ignored by the French as parts of the country were suffering from an unprecedented heat wave, affecting the second round’s turnout.
The abstention rate is expected to reach between 53.5% and 54% — up by more than a point compared to the first round (52.49%), according to the polls.
In the first round, the outgoing centrist majority came neck and neck with the left-wing alliance, with around 26% of voters opting for each.
Le Pen’s party provides big surprise
The majority will also have to deal with a strengthened Rassemblement national or National Rally (RN), the big surprise of this second round with a result of somewhere between 67 to 100 seats according to estimates, won after campaigning in the background, overshadowed by the duel between the Ensemble and the left.
The polls after the first round last Sunday gave the far-right nationalist party of Marine Le Pen — re-elected in her northern stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont — a maximum of 45 seats.
“The Macron adventure has reached its end,” Le Pen said. The group of National Rally MPs “will be by far the biggest in the history of our political family.”
As a result, RN will be able to easily form a parliamentary group, which allows for more means and speaking time.
RN had only succeeded to do so once in its history, from 1986 to 1988 when it was known as the National Front thanks to proportional representation.
In the first round, it had a total of 18.7% of the vote or 5.5 points more than in 2017, ahead of the Republicans and their allies, who had fallen to 11.3%.
The latter, which represented the second force in the outgoing Assembly, is credited with only 30 to 80 deputies this time, according to the various institutes.
Borne’s government under question
One of the issues at stake is the number of ministers of the 15 that were running for election who will have to leave the government if they are defeated.
Running as a candidate in Calvados, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is on course to win her electoral baptism of fire — but with a close score of 53% against 47% won by her young left-wing opponent according to estimates.
On the other hand, the Secretary of State for the Sea Justine Benin was defeated in Guadeloupe.
Christophe Castaner, an ally of the president and his former spokesperson who most recently served as Minister of the Interior until 2020, who was running on his home turf in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence was also among those who admitted defeat after 8 pm on Sunday.
Other ministers are under threat of failing to cross the 50% threshold, including Ecological Transition Minister Amélie de Montchalin in Essonne, the boss of En Marche and Minister of Public Service Stanislas Guerini and the Minister Delegate for Europe Clement Beaune, both running in Paris, as well as Richard Ferrand, the now-former president of the Assembly.
However, Minister-Delegate for Relations with Parliament and Citizen Participation Olivier Véran was reelected in Isère by a comfortable margin, stating on Sunday night that Ensemble will “constitute an absolute majority very quickly”.
NUPES was particularly pleased with its results overseas, with eight of its nine candidates ending up being elected in Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana, where voting began on Saturday and which will now remain predominantly left-wing.
Also noteworthy is the election in Polynesia of the pro-independence Tematai Le Gayic who, at 21 years old, could become the youngest deputy in the history of the Fifth Republic, although there were still two candidates in the race in metropolitan France younger than him.
The second round of the parliamentary election in France closes a long electoral sequence which began on 10 April and the first round of the presidential election, which saw the re-election of Macron ahead of Le Pen.