What's happening now in France?

What’s happening now in France?

The day after the surprise of the early legislative elections in France, we are starting to come to terms with the new political reality across the Alps. Which offers the perfect recipe for an ungovernable parliament. The alliance of the left arrived first, but it will not be able to govern alone. The centrists came out bruised but they held, and their votes will be needed to govern. The far right has grown but its rise to power has been blocked. What happens now?

The results of the polls

The election night in Paris was full of surprises. Starting with the victory of New popular front (Nfp), the united list of the left that obtained the relative majority in theAssembly taking home 182 seats out of a total of 577. Passing through the unexpected holding of the center branded Emmanuel Macron, whose coalition Ensemble for Europe (which supports the executive of the resigning Prime Minister Gabriel Attal) has fallen from the current 249 to 168 but has not suffered the collapse predicted by the polls.

The republican front erected as an anti-National Rallytherefore, has substantially held, with the strategy of the “great retreat” that has borne fruit. And in fact the third surprise is that the RN of Marine Le Pen and her dolphin Jordan Bardella (with allies) has remained nailed to 143 deputies. Which are insufficient to govern, but still represent the best result ever for the party of the nationalist and xenophobic far-right, heir of the Vichy collaborators.

Who will govern France?

This result gives the French a Balkanized Parliament, even more divided than the outgoing one, with three very different main blocks that do not have the numbers to lead an executive on their own. At this point the puzzle of the government opens up, which will engage the Elysée in the coming weeks. The practice, which is not however a constitutional obligation, is that by which the president appoints the leader of the party (or coalition) that won the elections to form an executive.

Macron will take the time necessary to evaluate the scenarios that are now opening up in a divided Parliament, which thus acquires an unprecedented centrality in the Fifth Republic. Rather than the willingness of the various parties to support a possible executive with explicit confidence, it is up to him to verify the implicit willingness not to vote no confidence in it. The difference may seem subtle but it is substantial. And it will be grafted onto it the complicated negotiations between the parliamentary forces to give France a government as soon as possible, with the Olympics just around the corner and a budget to be approved in the autumn after Brussels opened infringement proceedings against Paris for excessive deficit.

The Elysée’s options

Technically, there are at least three alternative scenarios, all with uncertain political viability. In addition to the coalition government (which we will discuss in a moment), there is the option of a minority government. An executive, that is, governed by a party (or parties) without an absolute majority of seats and which must negotiate with the other forces in the hemicycle for support on individual dossiers. Macron did this in the outgoing legislature (both with Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne and with his successor Gabriel Attal), surviving several motions of censure by the opposition.

Jacques Chirac had also done so in 1997, when he appointed Lionel Jospin as Prime Minister. In that case, in addition to a minority government, there was also cohabitation, that is, the co-presence of a head of state and a prime minister belonging to different political camps (Chirac conservative, Jospin socialist). It has happened only three times in the Fifth Republic, and it is a situation that guarantees instability. In Europe these dynamics are amplified: the occupant of the Elysée sits on the European Council, but France is represented in the Council by government ministers. However unlikely, there is theoretically the possibility that Macron will nominate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the movement leader of the radical left who has already claimed the post for himself, as prime minister, precisely to make his life difficult and crush his every move. chances to aspire to the Elysée in 2027.

Finally, there is the option of a technical government “Italian style”: supported by parliamentary forces that recognize themselves in a coalition program, free of excessively controversial points, and led by a non-political personality (a name that has been circulating is that of Christine Lagarde, governor of the ECB, but it is not clear how credible she is). This would be a novelty for France, accustomed to a rather polarized political life. But it could also be a way to ferry the country to new elections, which cannot be held for at least a year.

Political Alchemy

Now, the numbers of theAssembly suggest that the only possible option for a political government is a coalition between the centrists of Ensemble and the progressives of the NFP (350 seats, with the majority set at 289). But the road is all uphill. The left front is divided internally, with France unsubdued (74 elected) of Mélenchon who cannot stand the Macronian liberals, who despise her in equal measure. The success of Lfi is due precisely to the opposition to the policies of the president, who in turn considers Mélenchon and his acolytes to be almost as irresponsible extremists as the Le Penists, at least in terms of their economic agenda.

More likely, at least on paper, is a centrist majority on the model of the Eurochamber in Strasbourg: a “grand coalition” ranging from the socialists of Raphaël Glucksmann to the more moderate wing of the Republicansthe neo-Gaullist conservatives who have repudiated the leadership of Éric Ciotti (guilty of having allied himself with the RN). And which is based, of course, on the liberals of Ensemble. A “large centrist, republican and progressive bloc, without Lfi and RN”, as called for by the former President of the Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet, a member of Macron’s party, Renaissance. In this case, the prime minister should come from the NFP, as claimed not only by Mélenchon but also by the socialists, according to whom the progressives will have to reach an agreement on a name within the week.

But to realize this hypothesis, a lot of work will be needed to smooth out political differences and personal antipathies, which also emerged in the short (but very heated) electoral campaign. The field to keep an eye on is undoubtedly the one on the left, where there is great movement and new twists could occur. Without excluding that, as happened to Nupes (the progressive alliance created for the 2022 elections, which imploded shortly after), the NFP could disintegrate due to the incompatibilities between the subjects that made up the anti-RN electoral cartel.

Mélenchon is a cumbersome and controversial personality for his own allies, starting with the Socialists (PS) who have been resurrected and have obtained the second delegation of the alliance with 59 deputies. In contrast to the leader of LFI, Glucksmann has been more conciliatory and has declared that “in the face of aNational Assembly uniform we must behave like adults. We must talk, we must discuss, we must dialogue”. Within the Lfi itself, moreover, there are already several malcontents, with the patrol of the melanchonians that could suffer the hemorrhage of several dissident parliamentarians.