Sylvie Corbet and Barbara Surk | Associated Press
PARIS. On Monday, France awoke to Marine Le Pen’s delight after her party’s far-right parliamentary candidates sent shock waves through the political establishment and helped to rip President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance from an outright majority.
Le Pen’s National Rally party did not win two rounds of the parliamentary elections that ended on Sunday. But he won more than 10 times the number of seats he had five years ago.
Just a couple of months ago, Le Pen lost the presidential election to Macron. But now it’s her turn to gloat, as she knows she can use seats in the National Assembly to thwart Macron’s domestic politics and even provoke a no-confidence vote.
And she beamed with pride, calling the result a “historic victory” and a “seismic event” in French politics.
Many voters favored her far-right party or left-wing candidates, leaving Macron’s alliance significantly weakened despite holding the most seats.
The Le Pen National Rally won 89 seats in the 577-member parliament, up from the previous eight. On the other side of the political spectrum, the left-wing Nupes coalition, led by hardliner Jean-Luc Mélenchon, won 131 seats and became the main opposition force.
Macron Alliance Together! won 245 seats, but was 44 seats short of an absolute majority in the National Assembly, France’s most powerful chamber of parliament.
The outcome of the legislative election is highly unusual in France, and strong results from both Le Pen’s Rally Nationale and Mélenchon’s coalition of his own far-left Insubdued France party, socialists, greens and communists, will make life difficult for Macron. to implement the program under which he was re-elected in May, including tax cuts and raising the retirement age in France from 62 to 65.
“Macron is now a minority president. (…) His pension reform plan is buried,” a beaming Le Pen said on Monday in Henin-Beaumont, her stronghold in northern France, where she was re-elected for another five-year term in parliament.
She told reporters: “We are going to parliament as a very strong group and therefore we will apply for every post that belongs to us.” As the largest opposition party in parliament – Mélenchon leads the coalition – she said the National Rally would seek to head parliament’s powerful finance committee.
The National Rally, formerly known as the National Front, has been a political force in France for decades. But the two-round voting system has so far prevented her from achieving big results in parliamentary elections.
Political scientist Brice Teinturier, deputy director general of the polling institute Ipsos, told France Inter radio that Sunday’s results “mean that the National Rally is ‘institutionalizing’.” According to him, the strategy by which all other political forces united to defeat the extreme right in the decisive round no longer works.
Le Pen lost to Macron in April with 41.5% of the vote to 58.5%, her highest level of support in her three attempts to become France’s leader.
Since coming to power in the party in 2011, Le Pen, under the leadership of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, has worked to remove the stigma of racism and anti-Semitism inflicted on the National Front. By softening some of her views and rhetoric, she sought to force the party to move from a protest movement to an opposition force that was perceived as capable of governing. She even changed the name of the party.
The Le Pen National Rally now has enough deputies to form an official group in the National Assembly and request seats on parliamentary committees, including those dealing with defense and foreign policy.
In addition, the National Rally now has enough seats – over 58 – to trigger a vote of no confidence in the government, which could lead to a vote of no confidence.
The new Assembly will begin next week.
Meanwhile, France is moving towards a government reshuffle. Three ministers – out of 15 who ran – lost the election and will have to resign in accordance with the rules set by Macron.
The President can also use the reshuffle to offer some positions in the government to new potential allies.
Macron himself has not yet commented on the election results.
His government will still be able to rule, but only through negotiations with legislators. The Centrists could try to negotiate on a case-by-case basis with centre-left and Conservative lawmakers to prevent opposition MPs from being large enough to reject the proposed measures.
The government could also sometimes use a special measure provided by the French Constitution to pass a law without a vote.
A similar situation occurred in 1988 under the Socialist President François Mitterrand, who then had to seek support from the Communists or Centrists to pass laws.
Macron’s diplomatic policies are not expected to suffer in the near future, including France’s strong support for Ukraine. Under the French constitution, Macron retains significant powers in matters of foreign policy, European affairs and defense, no matter what difficulties his alliance in parliament may face.
Political analyst Teinturier said the new composition of the National Assembly echoed the “desire of the French people to balance” the results of the presidential election.
“There was a clear will not to give all the powers and a direct majority to Emmanuel Macron, but to impose some restrictions on him, a kind of putting him under supervision,” he said.
The last parliamentary elections were once again largely determined by the apathy of voters – more than half of the voters stayed at home.
Aurélie Crouvillier, a bank clerk in the French capital, said Sunday’s vote was bewildering because “we’re voting for candidates we don’t like when perhaps we should be voting for ideas or at least important issues.” .
Surk wrote from Nice, France. Alexander Turnbull and Katherine Haska in Paris contributed to the story.