French Snap Elections: ‘Cohabitation’ Could Reshuffle the Cards Between President and Prime Minister

Yves here. Emmanuel Macron’s impetuous, even petulant, calling of snap elections in France, presumably intended to wrong-foot a resurgent right wing, threatens to instead sink Macron’s centrist coalition. Based on the EU Parliament vote totals, they would have to choose between tying up with the bete noire Marine Le Pen’s National Rally plus the smaller right wing party Reconquest or a four-party leftist group calling itself the Popular Front. This post explains what happens when a French President no longer has a majority or plurality party position in Parliament.

I hope French and European readers will pipe up, particularly on what the implications would be of further gain by either the right or left wing groups at the expense of Macron’s centrists. What would be the broader implications of a French president who undercut his own legitimacy? Is lame-duckery in the EU more consequential than in the US:

By Alexandre Frambéry-Iacobone. Doctor Europeus en droit (mention histoire du droit – label européen) / chercheur post-doctoral, Université de Bordeaux. Originally published at The Conversation in French

The decision by French president Emmanuel Macron to dissolve parliament following the far-right’s historic surge in the European elections has thrown the country’s politics into disarray.

With the two rounds of the next parliamentary elections now slated for June 30 and July 7, the European elections appear to indicate that the trend of a broad three-way division of French politics has continued: at 31.37% of the European ballot for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, and 5.47% for Reconquest, the party founded and led by nationalist firebrand Eric Zemmour, the far-right was in front. Next came the freshly minted left-wing coalition, the Popular Front, which includes the left’s four main parties, Socialist Party (PS) (13.83%), France Unbowed (LFI) (9.89%), the Greens (EÉLV) (5.5%) and Communists (PCF) (2.36%); altogether, this accounted for almost 30% of the vote. The government’s centrist list, Renaissance, achieved 14.60%, with the mainstream conservatives, the Republicans, clinging to 7.25% of the vote.

This fragmented landscape makes it likely Macron’s government will lose its majority in the national assembly and be forced to cohabit with a prime minister from another party. How would such arrangements, as set out by the country’s 1958 constitution, work in practice?

Executive Power

Adopted in 1958, the constitution of the Fifth Republic sought to curb the power of the national assembly and, therefore, reduce the governmental instability that had rocked the Fourth Republic since 1946.

Executive power was further strengthened, after the constitution was tweaked to allow for the direct election of the president, following a 1962 referendum on the matter called by Charles de Gaulle, then president.

The change gives the president the legitimacy to assert power and guiding ideas but, on the downside, their stances can become divisive. That has led some people to describe France as a presidential parliamentary regime or even a presidential regime, since in this organisation the president is an active participant in framing and delivering policy at state level.

In the vast majority of countries with a parliamentary system it is not the president or king or queen who engage in public political debate. In Germany, for example, we have become accustomed to hearing Angela Merkel’s name. Yet she was not President but Chancellor – a position akin to the French Prime Minister. In the UK, when we think of politics, the first images that spring to mind may be Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair or Boris Johnson. Once again, these were prime ministers. Queen Elizabeth II and now King Charles III stand further back.

France is a special case: unlike most other countries with a parliamentary system, the head of state is elected directly by the people, giving them visibility and legitimacy. The French constitution therefore holds double meaning.

A Constitution with Two Faces

To allow him or her to exert power, the French parliamentary system grants several prerogatives to the president. As we have seen, they can dissolve the national assembly in case they are threatened or unable to pass the promised reforms by invoking article 12 of the constitution. Walking in the footsteps of his predecessors, Macron’s governments have often bypassed parliament to force through unpopular measures by resorting to article 49 paragraph 3 of France’s constitution. The mechanism was introduced in the fifth Republic constitution to “rationalise” the parliamentary system and resolve crises and deadlocks by handing over the reins to the executive. But the national assembly can also hold a vote of no confidence in the government.

As a result, a French president in office during a cohabitation is returned to a more discreet role – closer to those we encounter in other parliamentary systems.

In cases where a president of the republic has a political majority in the national assembly, they obtain a greater legitimacy than their prime minister, the very person who is supposed to direct the government’s action. Under such “majority rule”: the president leads the state, and the prime minister is placed below him in a de facto hierarchy (not merely the textual hierarchy as enshrined in the constitution), and the reforms he or she initiates can be expected to pass parliament.

In such instances, the prime minister is not only accountable to the assembly from which he or she comes, but he or she is also accountable to the head of state. In addition, during the Fifth Republic, some presidents asked their prime minister for a blank letter of resignation, playing on a constitutional ambiguity. Such as move is only really possible under majority rule.

The majority rule was greatly reinforced by the constitutional reform carried out under former president Jacques Chirac in 2000, which reduced the seven-year presidental term to a five-year one, and placed the legislative elections after the presidential elections. Since then, France has not experienced cohabitation.

Parliamentary Elections Matter More

Finally, it almost doesn’t matter what political colour the head of state is: their action can be neutralised – or at least greatly diminished – if the national assembly is not made up of a majority of members of their political family. The last person to experience this situation was Chirac who was elected in 1995 and dissolved the assembly in 1997.

He was forced to work with a left-wing parliamentary majority and socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. As a result, Jospin was able to introduce the 35-hour working week, universal health cover, back-to-school allowance, paternity leave and civil partnership for same sex couples. None of these were supported by President Chirac or his party.

What is currently at stake is the potential power shift from the president’s party in government with an imperfect majority assembly, to a system of cohabitation, which would significantly reduce Macron’s prerogatives.

Should the assembly swing to the far right, Macron would have no choice but to appoint a prime minister from that political persuasion – at the risk, otherwise, of the government being removed by an assembly no confidence vote. The prime minister, for his part, would have a free hand to set up his government and introduce bills – the assembly can table bills but these are fewer in number than government bills.

By bringing forward the parliamentary elections, Macron has brought back the risks of cohabitation to France. The country’s institutions would then operate according to a more typical parliamentary system. So, even without President Macron’s resignation, France could find itself led by a completely different political dynamic to that of the presidential party.

This is a powerful reminder that the most important elections for France are not really those that appoint the head of state, but rather those that establish its 577 MPs.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry. It looks fine to me in Safari BUT there was some superfluous code. I stripped that out. Try again in a new browser window.

      Apologies for the trouble and thanks for your interest.

  1. Carolinian

    Thanks for the clear explanation.

    When Bill Clinton was president one of the arguments the Repubs used against him was that, due to Perot, he won by plurality rather than majority and therefore didn’t he necessarily represent the true will of the American people. Clinton seemed to agree when he governed as an Eisenhower Republican and turned to “triangulation.”

    And the Dems in turn used similar arguments against Trump since he won via the Electoral College although in that case they suggested he should resign altogether and turn things over to Herself. Oddly those same Dems refer to Putin as a “dictator” even though he wins via 80 percent support.

    Bottom line it’s dubious if any of these power mongers care about the will of the people other than as a means to spin things their way. And PR is all when you have a Potemkin democracy. The Founders tussled over how to maintain class support while appeasing the Great Unwashed and that tussle is still going on here and, apparently, in Europe.

    1. Throskie

      The American system makes no sense. In fact, Trump, Bush Jr. and possibly JFK were presidents *losing* the popular vote, it means, they had less votes than his opponent(s). Clinton himself is not a good example because you need to sum two opponents, Trump simply had less votes than Hillary. I mean, exactly like in any pre-industrial system of FPTP you can win with as few as 5% of popular vote understanding that all the rest simply has 4% each. That’s why for instance in the French system, if no candidate wins more than 50%, there is a second round with the two most voted to warrant the elected precisely has a majority.

      Please note that, for instance, with an abstention of 40%, any candidate with 51% of popular vote is being elected with less than 30% of the whole people, 1 out of 3 voters. It is a major bias.

      The Marquis of Condorcet wrote a lot about this 250 years ago. There is no, there cannot be a “perfect” system, each system has its own biases. But, there are biases and biases.

      Finally, the current French system was made as a glove for de Gaulle. In general, in continental Europe parliamentary systems are the usual (a difference with Latin America, where there are systems more like the French one, a bit in the middle between the US system and the continental Europe system). The current Russian system is more like Latin America, but in everywhere continental Europe and Ireland, parliamentary systems are the usual, with more or less highly representative electoral systems, that’s the reason there are a lot of party, usually more than half a dozen and coalition governments. The normal continental European country is simply ungovernable with a British or US system, not to say openly unstable. But we would have to explain that the US parties are also completely different both in its working system and how they manage politics, being the European ones far more compact and less flexible.

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    I will be interested in the ideas, analyses, and synthesis from our French correspondents. Meanwhile, I have been on a theme of management by chaos.

    The Yahya Sinwar profile in today’s links includes this paragraph: “Most who have sought to understand Sinwar’s calculations agree that he launched October 7th knowing it would trigger a hysterical overreaction. A cutting-edge artificial intelligence program developed to find patterns in Sinwar’s decision-making process so far found that his thinking is highly scientific and rational, creating outcomes many steps in advance.”

    Sinwar is rational. His opponents are surviving on graft, slogans, and received notions. Management by chaos is the “strategy,” not that it is a strategy.

    Graft, slogans, and received notions also describe Macron. Now, will Melenchon remain rational enough to undermine Macron?

  3. ebolapoxclassic

    In the second sentence, I think there’s a “threatens”, or such, missing before “to instead…”.

  4. Aurelien

    Right, well, there are a couple of things to say before we get into this level of technical detail. Cohabitation is not yet certain, and it’s even less clear what cohabitation would mean in this context. This is a typical constitutional lawyer’s analysis, but the real issues will be primarily political.

    First, it’s dangerous to read too much into last Sunday’s results. The European elections were one round, with no less than 38 separate lists, and any list that achieved 5% of the votes was awarded MEPs in proportion. The parliamentary elections are by a uniquely French system of two rounds. In the first round, any number of parties can stand; in the second, only parties with more than 12,5% of the vote go through. Everything then depends on how many votes the qualifying parties can then attract from parties that have been knocked out, and who agrees to stand down in favour of whom. Historically, the second round would typically resolve itself into a contest between the principal party of the Right and the principal party of the Left in any constituency to attract the votes of members of small parties, and whoever best succeeded would win. This system survived, more-or-less, until the Socialist victory of 2012, but the decline of the traditional parties of Left and Right has largely consigned it to history.

    In addition, turnout on 30 June and 7 July is likely to be higher than for the Europeans, and much depends on who decides to vote then, among those who didn’t vote last time, and in which constituencies. Finally, two lists did well on 9 June who will not necessarily be able to repeat that performance. The list headed by Raphael Glucksman, which included the Socialists and offered a programme of vaguely social democratic ideas, albeit with endless war against Russia, did much better (at 14%) than the Socialist Party alone has done for some time. The jury is still deliberating why this is so, though clearly it’s partly because of Glucksman’s media profile (he’s hitched up with the telegenic TV journalist Léa Salamé), but it’s unclear whether this trick can be repeated, or if electors will redistribute themselves to LFI and Macron’s gang. (But see next paragraph). The other is Reconquête, originally led by the TV journalist and controversialist Eric Zemmour, and featuring Le Pen’s niece prominently. They managed to get 5,5% of the vote on 9 June, but Zemmour and Le Pen are now at daggers drawn, and it seems unlikely they will actually gain any seats this time.

    Second, what Macron was trying to do was based on hopes about how the second round would turn out. Briefly, he was hoping that as many as possible of his troops would qualify for the second round, enough to give him a realistic chance of an overall majority. What needs to happen then is that neither the disintegrating traditional Right, nor the historically divided Left, can get their acts together to agree on and vote for a single candidate who can beat his. In addition, where one of Macron’s gang is in the second round against the RN, he’s hoping that scare tactics can force wavering voters to back his candidate. This requires quite a lot of good things to happen for Macron.

    He got off to a good start with the likely-terminal disintegration of the Republicans, the last residue of the traditional Right, who had an immediate split over their leader’s suggestion of an electoral pact with the RN, which is probably all that will save them. Different bits of the party are suing each other, so on the Right, at least, Macron’s strategy is working. Less so on the Left. Macron’s gamble was that by giving only a few days for the Left to establish a common electoral list, he would prevent them from uniting. That didn’t work and, with one or two awkward moments, and accusations of heavy-handed solutions imposed from Paris, there is a single candidate in every constituency. The Left has even managed to agree a common programme, although it’s understandably a bit incoherent. If they can keep it together until 7 July, they stand a reasonable chance of increasing the number of deputies, and even becoming the largest single group.

    So the actual composition of the 577-seat National Assembly is impossible to predict at this stage. But how would cohabitation come into it? At the moment, Macron’s gang (itself a coalition of three parties) doesn’t have a majority in the NA, and they are relying on support on a day-by-day basis from the (declining) Republicans to have a majority in individual votes. They have also been using Art 49(3) of the Constitution, which enables them to pass laws without a vote by threatening a vote of confidence, which so far none of the other parties have wanted. So Macron’s first instinct will be to try to form a government from his own troops, and to survive from day to day with the support of others. The problem arises if another parliamentary bloc clearly has more seats than Macron’s. In practice he would have to ask the leader to try to form a government, but there he runs into the basic problem that these would be groups and individuals he has just spent the last month demonising as extremists bent on the destruction of France. Doable, perhaps, but not easy. But it’s quite possible that no group will have a majority, or even near majority of seats. Essentially, you need 289 seats for a majority, and no group has anything like that at the moment. If either the Left or the RN has the largest number of seats (say 210, which would be an incredible performance by comparison with their current strength), but no overall majority, it’s hard to see how they could find the rest. They can hardly go into coalition with each other. The result is likely to be chaos.

    Which, finally, puts the whole cohabitation thing into perspective. The 1958 Constitution is ambiguous about the relative powers of the President and the Prime Minister, because there was no agreement when it was being drafted. Much has depended on personalities and on the wider political situation. Since the reduction of the Presidential term to five years under Chirac, the Presidential elections have been held just before the Parliamentary ones, so the issue has rather gone away. In addition, pervious cohabitations, under Mitterrand and Chirac, were in a world where the straight Left-Right distinction retained its importance. Now it doesn’t. So cohabitation becomes a factor if, and only if, a non-Macronist political grouping has a majority of seats on 7 July, by one means or another, and Macron is forced to appoint a Prime Minister from their ranks, and if that person can form a government. We are a little way from that yet.

    1. Ignacio

      Thank you Aurelien. Very good analysis and I agree there are many uncertainties there. Yet, i have a feeling that this time, the scaremongering has less chances to win. If I were French it would scare me to my bones a possible win by Macron’s “centre”. Too biased I am. My daughter will be going next autumn to France (Paris, two year stay) and she has hired a French teacher and having conversations in French online. Much of it is about politics and this woman of some age is fervently pro-LePen mainly because migration. My daughter is learning two things: to improve her French, and to listen and argue with a person who has a political view radically different from hers. I am happy about that.

    2. Henry Rethals

      I don’t see how the Left can get a plurality. They might gain seats but even that is not too clear. LFI will be dominant in the 2nd round (among the left) and plenty of “social democrats” will simply not vote for a party that seems fine with Hamas. But even if they gain seats, RN will crush them (even if falling short of a majority).

      1. Aurelien

        I don’t really see how anyone can get a plurality: even for Macron’s mob it would involve a significant gain in seats, which is hard to imagine. I think it all depends on how many second rounds are between Macrons’ group and the RN, how many between his group and the Left, and how many straight RN-Left. Meanwhile, I see that the Left is already in deeper trouble than it was this morning, with violent arguments in LFI about the effective sacking of some deputies who had criticised Mélenchon’s leadership. As some have remarked, once a Trotskyite ….

        1. Terry Flynn

          Surely *someone* must get a plurality? Unless x parties each got 1/x of the votes, when x>1. Did you mean majority or did I misunderstand something about the first/second round system in France?

          1. Aurelien

            I’m not a mathematician, and in France the term is “relative majority” which is misleading. What I was trying to say (which may be different from the point Henry was making) is that I think it’s possible, even likely, not just that none of the three major groupings will receive a majority of the seats (which could be different from the percentage of votes cast) but that none of the three main groups will have enough seats that they can construct a plausible coalition. Obviously, barring a very strange outcome, one of the groups will have more seats than the others. But the groups themselves are not homogeneous, and even then it may be impossible for any group to find enough like-minded coalition partners, even if the group itself stays together. Imagine that of 577 seats, the RN gets 149, the Left 150 and the Macronists and their allies 151. Technically, yes, Macron and co would have a “plurality”, but they’d have only a quarter of the seats. I think this kind of outcome, albeit with a larger spread, is actually quite possible.

            1. Terry Flynn

              Thanks for the clarification. (Plus I should have said “seats” in my comment rather than “votes” as I understand the Parliamentary nature.)

            2. Henry Rethals

              I can only guess, of course, by my hunch is that RN will crush the competition, say > 230 with both Macron and FP at < 150 seats). If I had to bet now, I would say they will with 70% confidence. If the FP falls apart (quite likely), then it'll become a sure thing.

              1. Aurelien

                My gut feeling (and that’s all it is) is that the RN doesn’t have the strength and the organisation in the country to get 200 seats more than it has now. It hasn’t been particularly good in picking up town halls, for example. But it’s clear that the calculations would change a lot if the FP falls apart. In what way, I couldn’t begin to guess. If it wasn’t so serious, the situation would be enormously entertaining and fascinating to analyse, because almost any outcome is possible.

            3. zach

              Should that happen (no clear majority or functional/stable coalition), based on what you and Mr. Frambéry-Iacobone have said about certain constitutional ambiguities, it sounds like advantage Macron to me.

    3. schmoe

      “The list headed by Raphael Glucksman, which included the Socialists and offered a programme of vaguely social democratic ideas, albeit with endless war against Russia, did much better (at 14%) . . .”

      A twitter entry said that Raphael’s views on Gaza are as hawkish as RFK Jr;’s. If you drew a ven diagram, support for the Gaza slaughter and the Ukraine war are almost perfect matches, with RFK Jr. and some on the R side of the political ledger being exceptions.

      1. Henry Rethals

        Glucksmann wants wars in Gaza, in Ukraine, and in Georgia! And in Taiwan, too, of course!

        1. CA

          “Glucksmann wants wars in Gaza, in Ukraine, and…”

          What I am unable to understand is how could there be any French support at all for such encompassing militarism? Meaning no disrespect, are meaningful numbers of the French looking for a sort of Napoleon?

          1. Henry Rethals

            That’s an excellent question. The Napoleon Complex answer really doesn’t make sense because the warmongers are clowns. Glucksman is the mini-BHL. Bernard Henri Levy is the ultimate in clownishness. Perhaps the worst indictment of French culture is why such a warmongering buffoon is given such vast media exposure. My favorite anecdote is a book by BHL on war and philosophy (the guy is a philosopher — or so he says), in which he pens a scathing criticism of Kant (no less) based on the “scholarly” work of the great Jean-Baptiste Botul, whose philosophy (“Botulism”… get it?) rests on Kant’s observation that masturbation should form the basis of a new race of humans called “single people.” Etc, etc. Without ever realizing that Botul is the pen name of a journalist for the satirical newspaper, the Canard Enchaine.

            The French have this expression “Le ridicule ne tue pas” (Being a fool won’t kill you). In France, apparently, le ridicule gets you promoted.

            1. CA

              “Bernard Henri Levy is the ultimate in clownishness.”

              What an excellent comment, as usual. BHL is a clownishly severe militarist, who nonetheless has been taken seriously in elite French circles and thought from abroad to reflect French intellectual attitudes.

            2. CA


              April 1, 2011

              By His Own Reckoning, One Man Made Libya a French Cause
              By STEVEN ERLANGER

              PARIS – BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY, 62, is such an inescapable figure in France — of mockery, admiration, amusement, envy — that he is by now unembarrassable. Making his mark young as a philosopher, he was satirized neatly by a critic with the words: “God is dead, but my hair is perfect.”

              But in the space of roughly two weeks, Mr. Lévy managed to get a fledgling Libyan opposition group a hearing from the president of France and the American secretary of state, a process that has led both countries and NATO into waging war against the forces of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

              It was Mr. Lévy, by his own still undisputed account, who brought top members of the Libyan opposition — the Interim Transitional National Council — from Benghazi to Paris to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy on March 10, who suggested the unprecedented French recognition of the council as the legitimate government of Libya and who warned Mr. Sarkozy that unless he acted, “there will be a massacre in Benghazi, a bloodbath, and the blood of the people of Benghazi will stain the flag of France.”

              Mr. Lévy, a celebrated philosopher, journalist and public intellectual, gives Mr. Sarkozy sole credit for persuading London, Washington and others to support intervention in Libya.

              “I’m proud of my country, which I haven’t felt for many years,” Mr. Lévy said in an interview. “When I compare Libya to the long time we had to scream in the desert about Bosnia, I must agree that despite all our disagreements, Sarkozy did a very good job.”

              He is known simply as B.H.L., a man of inherited wealth, a socialist whose trademarks — flowing hair, black suits, unbuttoned white shirts, thin blond women — can undercut his passionate campaigning on public causes, including stopping genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, strong support for Israel and an early critique of France’s unthinking fascination with Communism, revolution and the Soviet Union…

        2. Piotr Berman

          “Glucksmann wants wars in Gaza, in Ukraine, and in Georgia! And in Taiwan, too, of course!” Bernard-Henri Lévy produced a clone? French science is amazing!

  5. Henry Rethals

    Macron proves one can be smart (though far less than he thinks) and experienced (7 years as the president of France) and still completely misread the political map. His strategy was always the same: (i) destroy the center, widen its boundaries, and reoccupy it under a new banner (with characteristic McKinsey-style BS: “startup nation,” “en même temps,” “more europe”); and (ii) demonize the non-macronie as the reincarnations of Stalin (Melanchon) and Hitler (Le Pen). It worked! That is, until people finally realized that Macron’s government of the Best and the Brightest were, in fact, a motley crew of incompetent doofuses. They failed at virtually everything: they deindustrialized until they announced it was time to reindustrialize; they shut down nuclear plants until they decided that France needed more nuclear plants. They said Putin was not the enemy until he “stole” Africa from the French and it was time to kill Russian troops. Meanwhile Macron managed to piss off every leader on the planet. Not out of ideology (Macron can think X and not-X “en même temps”) but because he’s, at heart, an arrogant prick.

    His mistake was to overlook the growing divisions in the non-macronie. Whereas he could usually rely on a “front republicain” to vote for him to keep Le Pen in her dog house, the sheer incompetence of his governance and the personal hatred the French have against Macron destroyed that front. In the second round of the coming elections, there will be 2 or 3 candidates left on the ballot. (You need 12.5% to make it to the last round.) In a almost all of the 577 contests, Le Pen is likely to have a candidate. In the past, that person would lose. Not this time. What Macron failed to understand is once you’ve spent years insulting your opposition as a bunch of Stalins and Hitlers, it’s hard to get them to vote for you — especially after you’ve crushed their living standards and you’ve made it clear that your big priority is… the Donbas!

    1. hk

      I don’t know if Macron necessarily “miscalculated.”. In a runoff system, being “less evil” carries a huge premium, as long as you stay alive into the second round, and the dynamics with Lepenistes in France for multiple elections had been that whoever that is not a Lepen is less evil to the majority of the electorate. Will that stay true now? Who knows, but I wouldn’t count that out until I see the second round results.

      1. Henry Rethals

        Le Pen has been de-demonized. In polls after polls, it is shown that the scariest figure in French politics is not Le Pen but Melanchon. She got 42% in the last presidential election. Zemmour (who’s to her right) helped her a lot by presenting himself as the true rightwing scarecrow. That’s why she wants to keep her distances from him right now.

        Nothing’s certain, you’re right, and perhaps on July 8, my comments today will prove to be way off the mark. But I doubt it.

        1. DJG, Reality Czar

          Henry Rethals: Looking forward to your continuing analyses and synthesis (especially because I’m in Piedmont, with its long border with France).

          1. Henry Rethals

            Grazie! I hope you’ve seen the youtube video of Macron kissing Meloni’s hand at the G7. Her look of disgust is priceless!

      2. Aurelien

        This requires that there should be a large number of second rounds with Macron’s party actually present, having managed to score 12,5% or more in the first round. In a situation where only two parties have qualified, and one is the Presidential majority (MP), then the situation is relatively simple in principle, and the MP just has to persuade the voters of the losing third party to vote for them, rather than for the RN or abstain. I’m less convinced that the electorate will always do that in practice. But I also think there are going to be a lot of “triangular” contests as they are called, where three parties qualify. In that case, it’s considered good manners for the weakest party to drop out and advise its voters to vote for the nearest candidate to their views. How well this works depends on many things. Here, though, I can see both the RN and the Left carrying on in many constituencies, since they both have an interest in destroying Macron at this stage of the game, and its highly unlikely that Macron would agree to have any of his candidates stand down. So the result could be completely unpredictable. And we shouldn’t forget that it’s quite possible that the MP might come in under the 12,5% threshold and be eliminated in certain competitions after the first round.

  6. bernie

    Frankly, i am surprised, Macron just doesn’t resign. But its hard to read tea leaves

    The sheep in the EU, must be as mallable as the sheep here. It was implied that the vassal states unreal mismanagement of their economies was causing a political upheaval. And that AFD, Netherlands, France, etc would lead the way toward a right wing movement.

    The subservience to the USA , leading the way, to loss of purchasing power, is as transparent as permaglass. But i suppose, its the same here in the USA, and our sheep keep voting for mainstream parties as well. Oh well.

    1. Bugs

      Macron could have fairly easily ignored the results of the European Parliament elections without much fallout, and continued to build up his dauphin minet and courtiers as a plausible replacement once his time is up. Instead, he once again showed who he is, the arrogant little Rothschild banker who gambles away the clients principal, the accomplishments of a century of social progress, for the sick satisfaction of seeing his mentors praise him as one of them. I’m sure that the French think tanks have no doubt that the center will hold. If if doesn’t, there’s gonna be hell to pay. Grab your popcorn.

      1. DJG, Reality Czar

        Bugs: Touché

        Nevertheless, as Shakespeare wrote, Ripeness is all, and your argument is that Macron is doing this at the wrong moment for the wrong reasons.

        It sounds indeed that there will be hell to pay. Is he bringing the whole house down in an haute-bourgeois temper tantrum?

        At least this electoral mess should prevent him for a week or three from threatening the Russians with invasion.

  7. JonnyJames

    The use of the term “far-right” “far-left”, “centrist” etc. are thrown around with no working definitions. These loaded terms mean different things to different people.

    I would say many of the policies of the FN/RN are not far-right at all. I would guess that the MassMedia label LePen and the RN as “far-right” simply because of their Russia/NATO, and immigration policy platforms. The RN also would like EU legislation to be initiated only by the Council, not the Commission. This of course, would require major overhauls to the TEU. and institutional framework of the EU. This would actually be more democratically accountable, as the Commission is not elected. I don’t see that as a “far-right” policy at all.

    While I would not support the RN, I think they are unfairly vilified by the press.

    As far as anti-labor, economic right wing policies, Macron and the RE are more right wing than the RN

    1. Bugs

      RN is labeled far right because of its history. Its platform may not look extreme but its street operation is classic fascist. Marine has done a good job wedding some of it out (that’s why Zemmour gets 5%) but the brownshirt contingent is still present in the background. There’s plenty out there to read about it, especially if you speak French.

  8. Froghole

    Several parallels come to mind.

    First, the 1968 parliamentary elections. De Gaulle was piqued by the ‘events’ of May, and at one point disappeared to West Germany (to consult with Massu). Having returned he replaced the banker Pompidou with the very straightlaced protestant foreign minister Couve and won a crushing victory over the Left. Might Macron have perceived the European parliament elections as the sort of shock to the middle class which might result in him winning a great victory in 1968 fashion? Of course, de Gaulle lost a referendum on local government reform in 1969 and promptly resigned.

    Second, the 1981 parliamentary elections. Mitterrand was determined to eviscerate the communists even as he allied the PSF with them during the 1970s. Having won a narrow victory over Giscard in 1981 he consolidated it by dissolving parliament, and the Left won a decisive victory. He appointed three PCF ministers (including the health and transport portfolios), along with an assortment of socialists and radicals. The Stalinist PCF leader, Marchais, was apprehensive – and suspected a trap – but felt it was the PCF’s best chance since 1946. The communist ministers performed well, but the PCF became a lightning rod for the failures of the Mauroy government, which nationalised the banks and insurance companies (and a good deal else) before its agenda was crushed by international finance capital in 1983 (with the connivance of the neoliberal PSF finance minister, Delors). The PCF’s popularity plummeted and never recovered. Might Macron be goading the RN into office in order to discredit it, after the example of Mitterrand?

    Mitterrand then repeated much the same trick after the Left was beaten in 1986. He tortured Chirac on the rack of office, setting up a decisive win for the Left in 1988. The ailing Mitterrand was unable to repeat this stratagem with Balladur in 1993-95, but Chirac (sort of) did so with Jospin between 1997 and 2002.

    I suspect that the untested RN will struggle in office, as widely expected. If they fail to gain a majority, they will have to co-opt a reluctant LR, who will demand a high price for support. They will face repeated obstructions by the senate, and Macron will bide his time waiting for a chance to strike. The RN may therefore be tempted to go down the same path as Meloni, and could end up being outflanked by Reconquête, so will bleed votes to the centre Right and far Right. With the sole exception of 1940-44, it has been the fate of the far Right in France since 1870 to remain largely or wholly impotent. Whilst I am tempted to characterise Macron’s decision as yet another example of his insufferable and overweening pride and arrogance, he might also have been planning this for some time, knowing that the president of the Republic possesses a great many valuable cards, even if his legislative influence evaporates.

    Also, he has lately succeeded in transforming the EU from a peace project into a war project. Since he has been unable to persuade the Germans to back true debt sharing, he has decided to use the Ukraine war as a ramp to force the Germans and other members states into a proper military alliance (via a revived Little Entente) so as to gain debt sharing via the back door. And perhaps not a moment too soon, since Europe and France’s nuclear capability are the last claims to minor great power status now that French influence in Africa has collapsed (in part due to revulsion amongst the French African comprador class at Macron’s lectures).

    1. Aurelien

      I think the difference is that De Gaulle and Mitterrand were highly competent politicians operating in a very different political environment. Macron is a petulant child smashing his toys. I know that there is an argument suggesting that this is all four-dimensional chess, and that Macron is deliberately trying to help the RN win so that he can discredit them and … well, that’s the problem. He’s finished in 2027, and there’s a big difference, I think, between Mitterrand inviting the PCF into an existing government to destroy them, and Macron hoping that the RN will win (far from sure) and then that they will so discredit themselves that a Macron bis will be swept back to power in 2027.

      1. Froghole

        Many thanks! I think you are right, but I am trying to rationalise a decision which – at first and second sight – seems completely irrational. There must be some sort of underlying reason, beyond mere petulance (the French people having yet again failed to rise to Macron’s elevated opinion of what they ought to be), at least I hope so…

        One other point. French prosperity has long depended on it having access to heavily discounted African commodities, which France has bartered in exchange for protection. If those discounts are no longer available, I wonder what effect it will have on France’s political economy. If the adverse effects start to manifest themselves over the medium term, then Macron might reason that it is better to have the RN in office so that they can be the lightning rod.

  9. Henry Rethals

    If RN gets an outright majority, its main goal will be to push Macron to resign by making his life unbearable. For example, all of Macron’s expenses have to be approved by the Prime Minister’s office… (Next G7 by zoom, anyone?) The RN’s goal is not Matignon but the Elysee Palace. Three years of chaos with an RN government would be bad news for Le Pen. If they can avoid total chaos, however, it’s a great because it will defuse her biggest weakness: the lack of government experience.

  10. CA

    Arnaud Bertrand @RnaudBertrand

    Absolutely insane projections for France’s elections, looks like Macron’s party will get ‘absolutely decimated’. *

    Here are the numbers:

    – Far-right bloc (Le Pen’s RN and Zemmour’s reconquête): in the lead in 362 seats
    – Left-bloc (Popular Front): in the lead in 211 seats
    – Macron’s party: in the lead in 3 seats. You read that right: 3 seats!!! And to top it off, none of these 3 seats are even in France, all of them are seats for French people abroad
    – Les Républicains (centre-right): in the lead in 1 seat

    It’s an election in 2 rounds. The projections for the 2nd round are that left and far-right would battle it out in 536 seats; Macron’s alliance would make the run-off in only 41 (!), and LR in just three.

    In short these elections look like they’ll essentially destroy “Macronism” as a political force in France. Either that’s somehow 9D chess that no-one understands or Macron’s dissolution of the French parliament is one of the stupidest moves ever by a French president.

    * The stakes are high in Macron’s gamble

    8:00 AM · Jun 15, 2024

  11. Tom Pfotzer

    Thanks for this article, and for all the great posts above that help explain the election mechanics and maneuver strategies among the political parties for the next round of elections.

    I see that something very big has changed – not just that Macron called snap elections, but that he was motivated to do so because of his party’s poor showing in the EU elections.

    What events, what fundamental political reality caused Macron’s party’s poor showing in the EU elections, or, conversely, why did the “far right” do so much better than expected?

    What is the force – the political force – which caused such a (an apparently) rapid change?

    What caused the political compass needle to move so far, so quickly?

  12. Piotr Berman

    My theory about early British election is that at this moment, it does not matter for the “deep establishment” whether Tories will win or Labour, but there are trends that malcontents of the deep establishment policies will organize better, get a noticeable number of seats in the Winter elections. which would be bothersome.

    Perhaps France is in a similar situation, namely the victory of the establishment is certain for now, but not necessarily in the near future. On one hand, Popular Front at this time seems to be dominated by “old socialists” who are close to centrist/Macronist consensus, and Rally for France is said to be “Melonized”, with the perspective that anti-war, anti-NATO tendencies can get stronger as Ukrainians and Gaza are getting clobbered with other disasters on the horizon.

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