Elections French Style

On Sunday, the second tour of the French snap legislative elections concluded. The result was far from the expected and many people were pleasantly surprised

Izzet Enünlü

Izzet Enünlü



Elections French Style

photo: AFP

Three coalitions competed for the seats in the parliament. According to final results, the left-wing alliance (Nouveau Front Populaire-NFP), Macron’s centrist alliance (Ensemble-ENS) and the far-right alliance (Rassemblement National-RN) won 182, 168 and 143 seats respectively. None of the blocs gained 289 seats required for an absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly to determine who will be the prime minister.

The results are a shocking reversal of the first tour of one week ago when RN took 33.15% of the votes and was projected to gain between 230 and 280 seats. This forecast was named as the ‘worst outcome’ and triggered a frenzy of political manoeuvres between ENS and NFP to defeat the far-right. According to the legislation any candidate who received a vote greater than 12.5% of the registered voters had the right to attend the election. Hundreds of candidates who came as the third on the first round pulled out of the contest supporting the competitor against the RN.

The tactic worked and the far-right obtained only half of the projected seats even though received most of the votes by party with 37.06%. Indeed, if the alliances are broken down NR has the largest number of the deputies in the parliament with 126 seats. The frustrated NR president Jordan Bardella condemned the left and the centre alliance as the “unnatural alliance” and tried to comfort his supporters by saying “But we have doubled the number of our lawmakers, in the first steps towards a victory tomorrow,” as the victory is a reference for the 2027 presidential elections.

After the results the Prime Minister Gabriel Attal offered his resignation to President Macron but he refused it for the time being for the sake of the stability till he decides for the next step. As none of the groups has the power of the majority and alliances, themselves are unstable and formed hastily out of the necessity to confront the far-right, indeed the formation of a government is difficult.

The NFP is formed by discordant left-wing parties - the far-left France Unbowed, the Communists, the Socialists and the Greens - with no unifying leader. As the left wing parties are notoriously factionalised  the Socialists and the France Unbowed were fighting till recently over Israel’s war against Hamas. The centrist bloc also is uneasy over Macron’s call of election without consulting his alliance partners.

The legislation prevents the repetition of the parliamentary election earlier than one year. Either the sides will learn to compromise and form a government or accept the chaos and wait for the repeat elections next year. However, it would be a safe bet that there will be very few politicians who dare to confront the rage of their voters with another snap election.

When Macron called the elections it was evaluated by many analysts as a political gamble and for many analysts the gamble backfired. It is true that the ENS lost about one third of its seats and to form a working government looks very hard but it is not totally unhopeful.

On the day of election before the results were not yet fully known, but the candidates of the left alliance were already speaking of a split and their reluctance for appointing the far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon as prime minister. Many voters who are against the far-right are also against the leader of the third largest party Unbowed France. Moreover different solutions exist for the formation of the government like under the prime ministry of an unaffiliated technocrate. As a result, despite the bleak appearance of the parliament, a government may be formed especially after dissolution of the elective alliances.

The surge of the far-right weakened other parties and the president increasingly struggled to have enough deputies that would back him. The status quo of French politics was not sustainable and Macron with the snap election broke it. By forcing moderate political parties to work together, he may pull them to the centre marginalising far-left and -right giving way to the normalisation.

Whatever President Macron had intended - and only time will show if he will be successful - bottomline is that French voters successfully prevented the far-right coming into power. It is difficult and elusive to define democracy, sometimes examples are easier to describe. Another good example is the election in the United Kingdom which was held last week. The centre-left Labour Party came into power with a landslide victory. The losing party leader apologised from the country and interpreted the results as “a clear signal that the government of the United Kingdom must change,”. He did not accuse the victors as “unnatural” like Berdella, instead congratulated them.

But democracy is a system or a mind set of the people? The French voters and politicians found a way to block a party that they perceived as a threat to democracy. In the UK politicians apologised from the country for their incompetence and did not dare to find an excuse for their failures.

Earlier this year on the other side of the continent another landslide victory belonged to President Putin of the Russian Federation. Putin won 87.8% of the votes. The opposition, inspired by Alexei Navalny, protested at noon against Putin at polling stations inside Russia and abroad. Millions of roses they left on the opposition leader's tomb had already faded and their efforts did not make a dent on the regime. Is it because the Russian system is wrong or Russians do not have the necessary mindset? Or maybe simply, every country has the government it deserves.

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