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2nd round of French legislative elections

2nd round of French legislative elections

20 June 2022

Below is a short analysis on the outcome of the legislative elections with ended tonight, June 19th, one with a historically low voter turnout for a French election (46%) and giving rise to an unprecedented period of uncertainty, with no clear majority emerging at the National Assembly.

The composition the new French executive and legislative branch should be stabilized by early July, when we will send you a last update on the topic. Meanwhile, stay tuned…

Seat projections (total number of seats – 577):

  • Ensemble: 225 – 240
  • NUPES: 155 – 170
  • RN : 85 – 90
  • LR: 68 – 72
  • Other: 25

Reminder: rules on qualification for the second round

Members of Parliament’s lower house are elected following a two-round uninominal ballot (first-past-the-post system). Any candidate who obtains the vote of more than 12.5% of registered voters (as opposed to the votes cast) qualifies for the 2nd round. Due to this ballot system, few parties were represented in the second round, apart from the 4 main political forces.

Preliminary analysis

Winners and defeated

  • The results of this second round are not much of a surprise but by the numbers of seats missing (48 – 65) for the presidential majority. For the first time, a newly re-elected president has not reached an absolute majority, a situation that occurred only once before, in 1988, in a totally different political context. Neither the President nor the leaders of the majority sought to breathe life into the campaign by engaging in a lively debate on ideas. Instead, they preferred to follow a clear-cut cleavage strategy, painting the election as a stark choice between order and chaos. The defeat is all the more severe as several heavyweights have been knocked out, including at least 3 Ministers that will have to resign from the government – Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon (a results which may be challenged in court as she’s missing only 56 ballots), Ecological Transition Minister Amélie de Montchalin, Overseas Junior Minister Julie Benin – as well as the President of the National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, and the President of the majority at the National Assembly, Christophe Castaner.
  • Victory does seem less substantial than expected for the left-wing bloc NUPES, united around the far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, but confirm the wave of momentum it has been riding on for the past few weeks, and which has made it into the main opposition force today. NUPES managed to consolidate the voter base gained by its presidential candidate a month earlier (around 30%).
  • Indeed, the clear winner of the election is the far right Rassemblent National (RN), which erupts in the National Assembly with an unprecedented number of MPs;
  • Questions are hovering over the strategy of the Conservative party LR. Although current LR heavyweights are indicating that they will remain in opposition, their party may very well be in a kingmaker’s position in relation to the presidential majority.

The clear winner of the election is the far right Rassemblent National (RN), which erupts in the National Assembly with an unprecedented number of MPs

What it means for the months to come

  • The relative majority obtained by the presidential party does not give it the muscle, contrary to the case during the first Macron government, to push through legislation on its own. The second Macron government will thus be forced to cut deals. Given the results, ad hoc majorities for its legislative program may be difficult to form. This quest will not be facilitated by the fact that French politicians are not very familiar with these practices and French institutions were not designed with this idea in mind. Compounding the situation is the fact that having such a powerful opposition is also quite unusual. This combination will make managing debates in Parliament quite difficult for a government and teams that have not stood out for their prowess in this area over the past 5 years.  It remains to be seen whether LR will change their mind and join a presidential majority to avoid a political crisis.

The second Macron government will be forced to cut deals. Given the results, ad hoc majorities for its legislative program may be difficult to form.

  • The conclusions to be drawn from these scores in terms of voter expectations and a possible shift in the center of gravity of the French electorate (which in recent years was said to be increasingly tipping to the right) should be put into perspective. The rate of abstention in both rounds is unparalleled in the French democratic experience. France has effectively counted among those countries (excluding countries where voting is compulsory) with a traditionally high voter participation rate. As to whether this downtrend is a temporary or a more lasting phenomenon, only time will tell.
  • The large scale of the electoral failure, including the individual failure of several members of Government and Ensemble heavyweights, will mean that some changes in the government team are unavoidable. Whether or not a broader reshuffle takes place will depend on the President’s intentions. Political logic would dictate that there should be a major reshuffle and that the Prime Minister should be changed. However, for Macron, changing his Prime Minister now would be an admission of failure, something he has seldom done.
  • It is too early to tell what Macron plans to do after these elections as, so far, his decisions have not followed the political logic that has prevailed in France in the last half-century. But whatever shape these changes take, they should take at least a couple of weeks before they become known, as Macron has made the habit of taking his time when it comes to drawing inferences from electoral results and of showing his self-sufficiency by making light of political and policy forecasts and predictions and of media pressure.


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