Just two months after being re-elected for a second term, French President Emmanuel Macron saw his hopes of pushing through his domestic agenda take a humbling blow on Sunday. What comes next?
His allies, known together as “Ensemble” (Together), looked on track to finish as the biggest party in parliament with 210-260 MPs, but far short of the 289 needed for a majority.
This scenario is extremely rare under modern France’s presidential regime, even before a constitutional change in 2002 which was intended to make it easier for the head of state to secure a parliamentary majority.
The election will not affect French foreign policy in theory, which is the exclusive domain of the president, but Macron’s domestic worries are likely to be a constant distraction and could undermine him abroad.
Work on this will begin on Monday morning, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne vowed in a short speech on Sunday night.
In the middle of the biggest cost-of-living crisis in a generation, the ruling party was in a rush to pass an emergency bill to help low-income families before the summer holidays in August.
“Together” is seen as most likely to reach out to France’s traditional rightwing party, the Republicans (LR) and its centre-right ally UDI, which are on course for 55-77 seats, projections showed.
“We are going to form a majority very quickly,” said Olivier Veran, minister in charge of parliamentary relations, sounding an optimistic note.
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said that the ruling party would need “a lot of imagination” and he called on parties which shared Macron’s “clear ideas” to support him.
Although some inside LR are known to be in favour of working with Macron, including former president Nicolas Sarkozy, party head Christian Jacob ruled it out on Sunday.
“As far as we are concerned, we campaigned as an opposition party, we are in the opposition and we will stay in opposition,” he said.
But is this a negotiating tactic, perhaps to attract offers of ministerial posts and other concessions?
If an alliance were formed, Macron would have to shift rightwards, but might be able to push through his cherished tax cuts, welfare and pension reform.