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FRENCH POLITICS

French parliamentary elections: What happens on Sunday and why it matters

On Sunday most of France heads to the polls for the second round of voting in the parliamentary elections - here's what happens, when we get the results and what happens next.

French parliamentary elections: What happens on Sunday and why it matters
France's President Emmanuel Macron leaves the polling booth to casts his vote in French parliamentary elections at a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France on June 12, 2022. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

The elections législative (parliamentary elections) decide who fills the 577 available seats in the National Assembly for the next five years.

They elect MPs  to serve residents of France and French overseas territories, plus 11 MPs to look after the interests of French citizens living abroad, and voting is done on a constituency level.

June 12th marked the first round of voting in France – and produced a very close result and a record abstention level – but voting continues in a second round on June 19th.

Second round

Not everywhere holds a second round of voting – if a candidate wins an absolute majority of more than 50 percent of the vote then they have won, and there is no second round in their district.

This has happened in several areas, but the majority of constituencies saw no outright majorities last week, so will vote again on Sunday. 
 

In the second round, only candidates who scored at least 12.5 percent of the total vote in their constituencies appears on the ballot paper.

In most places it will be a choice between two candidates, but in some areas there are three candidates – known as a triangulaire – in round two.

The second round follows the same format as the first – polling booths open at 8am around France and close at either 6pm, 7pm or 8pm depending on the area, most of the big cities are keeping their pooling stations open until 8pm.

Preliminary results are announced at 8pm – these are based on votes counted at specially selected polling stations and are usually very accurate.

The final results are released by the Interior Ministry in the early hours of Monday.

READ ALSO Ministers, maids and ‘Wolverine’ – who’s standing in the French parliamentary elections

What next?

If Macron’s centrist party and its allies manage to win an outright majority in the Assembly, business will continue largely as usual. 

If they do not, the days and weeks after the election will be marked with horse-trading between political groups to try and put together an alliance that will back Macron – the most likely candidates for this are the MPs of Les Républicains, but independent MPs and smaller parties may also be involved.

Macron’s MP Elisabeth Borne will try to put together a binding alliance, or failing that may try to form an alliance on a vote-by-vote basis.

If all these options are impossible, Macron may be forced to enter a cohabitation with the leader of the largest group in the parliament.

Borne may also have to reshuffle her cabinet and appoint some new ministers, since Macron has decreed that any minister who is not re-elected will have to step down. A total of 15 of the 28 ministers are candidates, and at least three of them are facing a tough race.

Other key dates

June 21st marks the end of the mandate of the National Assembly elected in 2017. The MPs who have been re-elected will carry on, while their defeated colleagues -or those who decided not to stand – will leave.

On June 28th there is the first session of the elected Assembly and the election of the President of the National Assembly.

Why does all this matter?

The parliamentary elections generally attract less attention than the presidential ones, but they are crucial for what happens in France over the next five years.

Although Macron was re-elected president in April if he wants to pass any laws during his mandate he will need the backing of parliament, and therefore needs a majority of MPs who are either in his party or allied to him.

If he cannot win a parliamentary majority he could be forced into the position known as a cohabitation – appointing as prime minister the leader of the party that has the majority in parliament.

So essentially these elections are the difference between Macron forging ahead with his ambitious programme of reforms, or five years of ‘compromise’ government likely to be marked by paralysis.

Alliances

One notable feature of these elections is that many parties have formed alliances, agreeing not to run candidates against each other.

On the left is Nupes (Nouvelle Union Populaire, Ecologique et Sociale) which comprises the far left La France Insoumise, the centre left Parti Socialiste, the Greens and the Communists. It is lead by third-placed presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is hoping to be appointed Prime Minister if his group wins the parliamentary majority.

In the centre is Macron’s party La République en marche, Horizon – the new party founded by ex PM Edouard Philippe – and the centrists of MoDem.

Not part of an alliance but still with candidates in the race are Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party and the centre-right Les Républicains.

All the candidates from Eric Zemmour’s extreme right party were knocked out in the first round, along with candidates from some of the smaller parties such as the Animalist Party. 

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FRENCH POLITICS

What now for France’s public service broadcasters after TV licence axed?

Questions remain over the future of France’s public service broadcasters after bill abolishing annual €138 licence fee leaves future funding plans for the broadcasters vague.

What now for France's public service broadcasters after TV licence axed?

Households in France will no longer have to pay for an annual TV licence after parliament approved scrapping the annual €138 per household charge, meaning that this November the usual tax bill will simply not arrive.

The measure is part of a €65 billion package of financial aid to help people cope with the spiralling cost of living.

Revealed: What will you get from the cost-of-living package?

But abolishing the TV licence was not without its critics, while questions remain over the future funding of France’s public service broadcasters.

The €138 annual fee has been used to finance the TV and radio channels in the public sector.

It raises €3.7 billion a year – 65 percent of which is allocated to France Télévisions, 15.9 percent to Radio France, 7.5 percent to Arte, 7 percent to France Médias Monde, 2.4 percent to audiovisual archive agency INA and 2.1 percent to TV5 Monde, a Senate report revealed.

TV licence funding currently supplies about half of the total turnover of France Télévisions, while the rest comes from advertising.

Proposing the licence fee cut, president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to define a budget “with multi-year visibility”, with fixed financing amounts. But, no long-term concrete plans are currently in place.

The government has said there is no question of public service broadcasters losing money, insisting it will replace the licence fee “euro for euro” with public subsidies financed by VAT. 

This model, however, is guaranteed only to the end of 2024 – after which the government will have to present different financing strategies to Parliament.

Despite the bill passing, Senators lined-up to criticise the absence of a concrete long-term funding strategy.

Les Républicains’ Jean-Raymond Hugonet said the plans were being pushed through too quickly for populist reasons and argued it was a change that should have come with a definitive public broadcasting strategy. 

Socialist senator David Assouline said Malak had “hailed the glory” of French public broadcasting but was “creating the conditions to weaken it”.

Assouline has long been a critic of the plan. “From the moment there is no more dedicated funding and we have to draw from the general state budget, we will end up being told that it all costs too much and that we have to cut expenses, close a channel, or even, as we already hear sometimes, privatise,” he told a demonstration against the plans in July.

Concerned staff at France Télévisions and Radio France went on strike at the end of June in protest at the changes, saying that getting rid of the fee amounted to a “threat” to the independence of the channels in question. 

Unions and cultural experts have expressed concern about the possibility that broadcasters’ independence would be eroded if financing was at the whim of the government of the time. Bruno Patino, the head of Arte France, has told AFP that he feared for his channel’s future if the funding model changed.

Another critic, cultural economist Françoise Benhamou told Le Monde: “The disadvantage of budgeting is that we are much less protected from the vagaries of politics, since the latter decides on the budget.”

And LFI MP and journalist Clémentine Autain said in July: “This is a highly political and dangerous measure. Democracy needs a strong public audiovisual service, with a fair financing system that guarantees independence.”

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