President Macron FAILS to secure majority in French parliament while Marine Le Pen makes major gains

President Macron FAILS to secure majority in French parliament while Marine Le Pen makes major gains

President Macron FAILS to secure majority in French parliament while Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally makes major gains, projections show

  • Macron needed majority to push through promised tax cuts and welfare reform  
  • French President’s Together looked to hold off challenge from left-wing coalition
  • He failed to win a majority in the final round while Marine Le Pen made gains 

President Emmanuel Macron failed to win a majority in the French Parliament today as the Far-Right National Rally was expected to fill a record 89 seats, according to early projections.

Instead, it was Marine Le Pen of the National Rally who was celebrating a massive victory, according to an early IPSOS poll.

Its 89 seats will turn them into a serious parliamentary group capable of challenging the government at every opportunity.

The far-right party did far better in Sunday’s election than five years ago, when it won just eight seats when it was called the National Front.

It followed the second and final round of a nationwide election on Sunday in which 577 places in the Paris National Assembly were chosen.

This is the most powerful house of Parliament – the equivalent of Britain’s House of Commons – and President Macron needs to control it to push through new reforms.

But normally extremely reliable exit polls results released at 8pm projected a National Assembly made up of 224 for Mr Macron’s coalition.

While this means they won overall, the figure did not secure the broad majority that the Macron administration has enjoyed since coming to power in 2017.

An absolute majority of 289 seats was vital for Mr Macron to push through his most contentious policies, such as raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen won major gains for her National Rally party, which had just eight seats in the outgoing parliament

French President Emmanuel Macron casts his ballot in Le Touquet, northern France, on Sunday

French President Emmanuel Macron casts his ballot in Le Touquet, northern France, on Sunday

Centrist Macron's coalition is looking to hold off a challenge from a newly formed left-wing alliance

Centrist Macron’s coalition is looking to hold off a challenge from a newly formed left-wing alliance

A poster of French President Emmanuel Macron displayed as journalists and supporters attends an electoral party for the results of the second round of the French legislatives elections, at headquarters of French President's centrist Ensemble, in Paris, France, 19 June

A poster of French President Emmanuel Macron displayed as journalists and supporters attends an electoral party for the results of the second round of the French legislatives elections, at headquarters of French President’s centrist Ensemble, in Paris, France, 19 June

Key ministers in the government of President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday admitted that the ruling coalition’s performance in parliamentary elections was ‘disappointing’ after projections showed it had lost its majority.

The results are ‘far from what we hoped’, Budget Minister Gabriel Attal said on the TF1 channel, while Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told BFM television: ‘We’re in first place but it’s a first place that is obviously disappointing.’

A triumphant Marine Le Pen heralded a ‘new chapter’ in French politics tonight and said her new parliamentary group would represent ‘all patriots who wish to defend our country against collapse’.

To cries of ‘Marine! Marine! Marine!’, the 53-year-old spoke to delirious supporters in her home constituency of Henin-Beaumount, in northern France.

‘Here we are at the end of a long electoral journey, and the people have spoken,’ said Ms Le Pen.

‘We have overcome obstacles such as the electoral system. The people have given us the great power of creating a parliamentary group in the National Assembly. This is a great chapter in the history of our political family.

‘We welcome all patriots who wish to defend our country against collapse.’

Projected results put Ms Le Pen’s National Rally on 89 seats – far higher than the previous record of 1986 when the then National Front won 35 seats.

The party was then led by Marine Le Pen’s father, the convicted racist and anti-Semite Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The 89 seats compare to just 78 for The Republicans – the current name for the Gaullist conservatives who were traditionally viewed as the natural party of government in France.

Meanwhile the number two of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, Jordan Bardella, hailed her party’s performance as a ‘tsumani’. 

In the first round of the elections last Sunday, a pro-Macron centrist alliance known as Together (Ensemble) tied on votes cast with Nupes, the radical alliance led by far-Left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Mr Melenchon’s coalition was tonight projected to win 149 seats.

The abstention rate today was very high today, with just 46 per cent of the electorate recorded as casting their vote by 8pm.

Pro-Macron forces have always stated that an absolute majority of more than 289 seats would allow them to pass legislation with relative ease.

More seats than other groups – but not more than half of the total – means a relative majority, meaning Mr Macron will have to horse trade with other parties to support new bills.

The election also cost Mr Macron his recently appointed Secretary of State for the Sea, Justine Benin.

Ms Benin was appointed last month to deal with a range of issues including

fishing rights in the English Channel.

But early voting in France’s overseas territories on Saturday saw Ms Benin lose her National Assembly seat in Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean.

She was beaten by Christian Baptiste, a candidate for the Nupes alliance.

Celebrating confirmation of his victory on Sunday, Mr Baptise said: ‘The interests of Guadeloupe do not involve persisting with the brutal politics of Emmanuel Macron.’

Mr Macron came to power as an independent in 2017, and his En Marche ! (On The Move!) party enjoyed a parliamentary majority throughtout his first five years in power.

But it has been diminished constantly, meaning he now has to rely on allies to support him in the National Assembly.

Mr Macron himself has never been an MP, or stood for any elected office except for President of France.

He won his second and final term in April, promising to bring in tough new pro-business reforms, including making it easier for bosses to hire-and-fire.

This has given the ex-merchant banker and tax civil servant the nickname ‘President of the Rich.’

Falling short of the majority may force Macron into tricky partnerships with other parties on the right to force through legislation.

There could now potentially be weeks of political deadlock as the president seeks to reach out to new parties.

The most likely option would be an alliance with – or poaching MPs from – the Republicans (LR), the traditional party of the French right who are on track to win 40-80 seats.

The nightmare scenario for the president – the left winning a majority and Melenchon heading the government – appears to have been excluded.

It has been 20 years since France last had a president and prime minister from different parties, when right-winger Jacques Chirac had to work with a Socialist-dominated parliament under premier Lionel Jospin.

The ruling party’s campaign had been shadowed by growing concern over rising prices while new Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne failed to make an impact in sometimes lacklustre campaigning.

French television reports said Borne had gone to the Elysee to talk with Macron even before the projections were published.

The jobs of ministers standing for election were also on the line under a convention that they should resign if they fail to win seats.

In France’s Caribbean island of Guadeloupe – where the poll is held a day early – Justine Benin was defeated by NUPES candidate Christian Baptiste Saturday, a loss that jeopardises her role in the government as Secretary of State for the Sea.

On the mainland, France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune and Environment Minister Amelie de Montchalin are facing tough challenges in their constituencies, with both likely to exit government if defeated.

New left-wing coalition NUPES was hoping to spring a surprise, with the red-green collective promising to block Macron’s agenda after uniting behind 70-year-old figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon.

‘The vote is extremely open and it would be improper to say that things are settled one way or the other,’ Melenchon told reporters Friday during a final campaign stop in Paris.

Macron greets supporters as he arrives to vote in the second round of French parliamentary elections

Macron greets supporters as he arrives to vote in the second round of French parliamentary elections

Macron was left disappointed last weekend after the first round placed Together and NUPES neck-and-neck at around 26 per cent.

Surging inflation, lacklustre campaigning from newly named Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, and Macron’s abrasive personality were all blamed for the under-performance.

‘I really don’t believe we’ll get an overall majority,’ one worried minister said last week.

The first-round vote served to whittle down candidates in most of the country’s 577 constituencies to two finalists who are going head-to-head.

The election caps an intense two-month sequence to elect a new president and parliament, with voter fatigue seen as one of the reasons for what is expected to be record-low turnout.

Parts of France also remain under a fierce heatwave that reached its peak on Saturday but could yet keep voters at home. 

The contest between Together and NUPES has turned increasingly bitter over the last week, with Macron’s allies seeking to paint their main opponents as dangerous far-leftists.

Senior MP Christophe Castaner has accused Melenchon of wanting a ‘Soviet revolution’, while Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire called him a ‘French Chavez’ in reference to the late Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez.

The political mudslinging has put off some voters.

‘Between the two rounds, I’ve found it really disappointing how some people have said unspeakable things about their opponents,’ said 67-year-old Marie-Noelle at a polling station in Lyon.

Macron headed to Ukraine last week, hoping to remind voters of his foreign policy credentials and one of Melenchon’s perceived weaknesses – his anti-NATO and anti-EU views at a time of war in Europe.

‘We need a solid majority to ensure order outside and inside our borders. Nothing would be worse than adding French disorder to global disorder,’ Macron said.

French leftist La France Insoumise (LFI) party leader, Member of Parliament and leader of left-wing coalition Nupes (Nouvelle Union Populaire Ecologique et Sociale - New Ecologic and Social People's Union), Jean-Luc Melenchon (C) casts his vote at a polling station in Marseille, southern France

French leftist La France Insoumise (LFI) party leader, Member of Parliament and leader of left-wing coalition Nupes (Nouvelle Union Populaire Ecologique et Sociale – New Ecologic and Social People’s Union), Jean-Luc Melenchon (C) casts his vote at a polling station in Marseille, southern France

As president, he would retain control of foreign and defence policy whatever the outcome, but his domestic agenda could be thwarted.

Melenchon has promised a break from ’30 years of neo-liberalism’ – meaning free-market capitalism – and has pledged minimum wage and public spending hikes, as well as nationalisations.

It has been 20 years since France last had a president and prime minister from different parties, when right-winger Jacques Chirac had to work with a Socialist-dominated parliament under premier Lionel Jospin.

A final flurry of polls Friday suggested Macron’s Together allies were on track for 255-305 seats, with only the upper end of that range being a majority of more than 289.

NUPES would secure around 140-200 seats, making them the biggest opposition force, while Le Pen’s National Rally was seen to get around 20-45 seats.

Macron headed to Ukraine last week, hoping to remind voters of his foreign policy credentials and one of Melenchon's perceived weaknesses - his anti-NATO and anti-EU views at a time of war in Europe

Macron headed to Ukraine last week, hoping to remind voters of his foreign policy credentials and one of Melenchon’s perceived weaknesses – his anti-NATO and anti-EU views at a time of war in Europe

If they secure more than 15 seats, Le Pen’s MPs would be able to form a formal group in parliament, giving them greater visibility and resources.

But after scoring 41.5 per cent in the presidential election in April, Le Pen is still struggling to convert her huge national following into major representation in parliament.

Observers will be keeping a close eye on turnout figures following a historically low level last week of just 47.5 per cent.

The three polls – from Elabe, Ifop-Fiducial and Ipsos – suggested turnout Sunday would be 44-47 per cent.

A higher-than-expected turnout would most likely favour NUPES, which is banking on young people and the working classes voting.

In France’s Caribbean island of Guadeloupe – where the poll is held a day early – Justine Benin was defeated by NUPES candidate Christian Baptiste Saturday, a loss that jeopardises her role in the government as Secretary of State for Sea.

A government reshuffle is expected after the election.

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Jonathan Rose

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