Dramatic turn of events in France: the left triumphs, for Le Pen (third) “Victory postponed”. We are moving towards a coalition: the possible scenarios


By John

Plot twist in France: the seats missing from Marine Le Pen’s absolute majority were being counted and instead it was the left that resoundingly triumphed, with the head of La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, claiming the government: “We are ready, Macron must admit defeat, he has the duty to call the New Popular Front to govern”. Emmanuel Macron and his outgoing majority do not collapse, as expected, but even arrive ahead of the far right of Le Pen’s Rassemblement Nationalthe great defeat after the desistance pact signed against her in recent days (“The tide continues to rise, our victory is only postponed”, commented the leader in the evening).

The surprise is total, The left is still about 90 seats short of an absolute majorityso the search for a coalition remains fully current. The first reaction from the Elysée was for Macron, who has been under fire from all sides for weeks, to claim his decision to dissolve the National Assembly: “The turnout – at a record level of 67% – shows that the French had to express themselves”. Immediately after, the president’s entourage called for “prudence”, since the results do not guarantee that “a coherent coalition” can be created. The New Popular Front would have between 180 and 215 seats, far from the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority. And Macron’s center bloc, at 150-180, will not form any alliance that includes Mélenchon and the Mélenchonians. “This is the question – insists the Elysée – whether a coherent coalition is possible to reach 289 deputies”. Then, an official source from the Elysée clarified that Macron “will wait for the new National Assembly to be structured to take the necessary decisions. The president, in his role as guarantor of the institutions, will ensure that the sovereign choice of the French is respected”.

The hypotheses that are being improvised in these hours are a government of national unity oriented towards the centrewith the reformists of the gauche and the Republicains, who obtained – without Eric Ciotti who went over to Marine Le Pen – a flattering result, with over 60 seats. While 20 days of debate now seem like a memory – as do the proclamations of Le Pen and Jordan Bardella who only 48 hours ago were dictating their objectives in foreign policy, on Ukraine, or in economic and social policy, on immigration – the gauche is already showing all its profound differences. Thundering in these first hours of comments are the winners of La France Insoumise, the radical left that was almost certain to be left out of any agreement, with Mélenchon isolated in opposition.

From Manon Aubry to Mathilde Panot to Manuel Bompard, Mélenchon’s colonels proclaim an increase in the minimum wage and a 60-year retirement age, demanding the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Attal. But the figures who will probably have a say in the coming days in the attempt to negotiate the coalition with the center and the moderate right, the only conceivable solution for the government, are also making their way. “Tonight we are in the lead,” said Raphaël Glucksmann, who has dragged the Socialist Party up even further, “but faced with a divided National Assembly we must behave like adults. We must talk, we must discuss, we must dialogue,” he insisted, stressing that “the heart of power has been transferred to the National Assembly, a change in political culture is necessary.”

While the left-wing people spontaneously flocked to the Place de la République in Paris to celebrate a victory that was as beautiful as it was unexpectedit’s a bad blow for Marine Le Pen. After a few spokespeople, a Jordan Bardella appeared on the stage at the headquarters for the first time, looking grim. He immediately denounced the “unnatural alliances” between Macron’s supporters and the left, which according to him caused the defeat of his party: “Unfortunately,” he said, “the dishonorable alliance and the small electoral agreements between Macron and Attal with the far left deprive” voters of a Rassemblement government and “throw France into Mélenchon’s arms.” He then paid homage, with little conviction and failing to smile, “to the dynamic enjoyed by the RN that brought it to the lead in the first round” and still allows it to obtain a historic number of deputies, between 120 and 150. A small consolation tonight, for a party that was uncertain between triumph and simple victory. The glass ceiling that prevents the far right from governing France is today more solid than ever.

At this point, the question is how France can now emerge from the spectre of a possible impasse. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has already announced that he will resign. It will therefore be up to President Emmanuel Macron to appoint a new prime minister who will in turn propose the formation of the new government. Saccording to BfmTv there are now 5 possible scenarios:

1 – New Popular Front Government

“Emmanuel Macron has the duty to invite the new Popular Front to govern,” said Insoumis leader Jean-Luc Mèlenchon after his victory. In the absence of an absolute majority, the rebels propose to approve part of their program (increasing the minimum wage, freezing prices, repealing the pension reform, in particular) by decree. But this executive can only survive if a motion of censure is not voted in the National Assembly. However, the history of France has cases of minority governments that have governed despite motions of censure: Elisabeth Borne and Gabriel Attal did so for two years.

2 – Government Ensemble-Republicains

The alliance with the Republicans could allow the Macronists to stay afloat. According to Elabe’s count, a total of 231 deputies from the Ensemble, Les Républicains, plus others from the right or the UDI have been elected to the National Assembly. “The country is on the right. We must govern on the right. And not have a coalition with La France insoumise and the Nouveau Front populaire,” Gérald Darmanin, a former supporter of Nicolas Sarkozy, told Bfmtv. “We are turning to the Republicans,” Benjamin Haddad, a deputy from the Ensemble and former national secretary of the UMP, told BFMTV. “I’ve been saying this for two years, I want us to work with them.” If an agreement is reached, the future government could fall with a motion of censure voted by the New Popular Front (182 deputies) and the National Rally (147). Unless there is an abstention agreement with some parties.

3 – ‘German-style’ coalition

Mathematically, a PS-Ensemble-LR coalition would bring together, for example, 296 deputies, or a narrow majority. But this, according to some political experts, could take time. Especially because a coexistence of extremes, which works on the other side of the Rhine where it is normal for parties with different ideologies to unite once the election results are known to form a majority, does not have much tradition in France. In particular, the main parties of the New Popular Front seem to exclude such a scenario.

4 – Technical government

What remains is the scenario of a so-called technical government composed of experts (economists, senior civil servants, diplomats, etc.) supervised by a consensual personality in Matignon. A somewhat vague concept in France, which never existed during the Fifth Republic. France has known a government of national unity that brought together almost all the parties (except the PCF) such as that of Michel Debrè (1959-1962). The “technicians” have indeed headed governments such as Raymond Barre in 1976 or Jean Castex in 2020. But both had a political mandate and a majority in the Assembly.

5 – Institutional crisis

Even the technical government, however, would be threatened by a possible motion of no confidence. Therefore, if none of the previous scenarios were to work, France would enter a deep institutional crisis, with Macron unable to dissolve the Assembly until 2025.