Macron urges solid parliament majority amid ‘troubled times’

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday appealed to voters to give him a "solid majority" in Sunday's parliamentary polls, warning against adding "French disorder to global disorder".

Macron urges solid parliament majority amid 'troubled times'

Speaking as he departed from Paris to visit French troops dispatched to Romania in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Macron said “the months ahead will be difficult”.

But he called for people to back him in the name of “the higher national interest” and “common sense”.

Macron’s visit this week to Romania and neighbouring Moldova comes just ahead of the second round of crucial parliamentary elections in which his majority is at risk.

“Emmanuel Macron has planned a trip abroad for three days… after anaesthetising the campaign by refusing any debate, he saw the second round as a done deal,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing Nupes alliance, told Le Parisien daily.

As the head of state, Macron is technically not supposed to campaign in the parliamentary elections, leaving that up to his Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. 

In the first round of voting on Sunday, his Ensemble (Together) alliance of centrist parties finished neck-and-neck with the leftist alliance Nupes.

Projections suggest voters could hand Ensemble 255-295 seats in the second round — uncomfortably low compared with the threshold for an absolute majority of 289.

France deployed 500 troops to Romania following Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Speaking to around 200 French soldiers at a NATO base in Romania on Tuesday, Macron said they were “the pride of France” and hailed them for the “fundamental” commitment to protect eastern European countries threatened by Russia.

On Wednesday, Macron is due to meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis before visiting Moldova, where fears of a spillover from the Ukraine conflict have spiked after incidents in the pro-Moscow breakaway region of Transnistria.

There have been press reports — so far unconfirmed — that Macron could make his first visit to Ukrainian capital Kyiv since the assault began in February, alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

But “people (in France) are really worried about petrol, purchasing power, not about him going to visit French soldiers abroad,” one anonymous parliamentary candidate for Ensemble complained to Le Parisien.

Macron acknowledged on Tuesday “disorder in our everyday lives,” telling voters “you’re already paying more for your gas, your petrol, your groceries, and the months ahead will be difficult.”

“In these troubled times, the choice you have to make this Sunday is more crucial than ever,” he added, calling both on people who had voted for other candidates and non-voters to rally behind him.

While the campaign has been dominated by inflation and other economic impacts of the Ukraine war, the left is also trying to make it a referendum on Macron’s plans to raise the minimum retirement age to 65 and reform the pension system.

But all sides have struggled to get voters excited about the poll, with just 47.5 percent turning out on Sunday.

Since early-2000s reforms to the electoral calendar, interest in the legislative vote — which follows on the heels of the presidential poll — has dwindled, as it has always given the head of state a handy majority.

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EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

As energy prices soar around Europe, France is the notable exception where most people have seen no significant rise in their gas or electricity bills - so what lies behind this policy? (Hint - it's not just that the French would riot if their bills exploded).

EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

On most international comparisons of rising energy prices, France is the outlier – but the government control of energy prices is not in fact a new policy and was in place well before the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent gas and electricity prices soaring.

At present prices for domestic gas are frozen at 2021 levels and electricity prices can only increase four percent per year. According to economy minister Bruno Le Maire, without these measures French bills would have risen by 60 percent for gas and 45 percent for electricity.

Both these measures – collectively known as the bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield) – are in place until at least the end of 2022, and could be extended into 2023.

The extension of the price shield was confirmed by parliament earlier in August – part of a €65 billion package of measures aimed at tackling the cost-of-living crisis – but had been in place for much longer.

Tariff shield

The reason that gas prices are frozen at 2021 levels is that the freeze came into effect on November 1st 2021 – well before Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The measure was initially put in place to help people deal with the economic after-effects of the pandemic, but was extended in the spring of 2022, when electricity prices were also capped at four percent.

Price regulation

But although prolonged price freezes are unusual, the French government involvement in price-setting is completely normal and during non-freeze periods, a rate is set each month.

If you read French media (or The Local), you’ll notice regular articles on ‘what changes next month’ which include gas and electricity prices, usually expressed as a month-on-month percentage rise or fall. This refers to the maximum rate that utility companies are allowed to increase their charges per month.

The government-set rate refers to the basic price plan from EDF. Some people are on special deals or time-limited tariffs, so if their deal or payment plan ends and they go back onto the basic rate, they can see a rise above the government rate.

Around 85 percent of households in France get their electricity from EDF. 

READ MORE: Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%

State-owned utilities

So, why is the government involved? Well, it’s the majority stakeholder in EDF, the country’s largest electricity supplier, and owns Gaz de France (Engie). 

At present EDF isn’t completely state owned – although there are plans to fully nationalise it – but it owns 84 percent.

The French state owns a lot of service and utility companies including the country’s rail provider SNCF, postal service La Poste and France Télévisions. One notable exception is the country’s autoroutes, which are run by private companies, although the government sets limits on toll charges. 


France is less exposed to energy shocks than some other European countries because of its nuclear sector.

It is unusual among European nations in the size of its nuclear industry – around 70 percent of electricity comes from its own domestic nuclear power plants, although during the heatwave several plants have had to lower output as rivers have become too hot to effectively cool the reactors. There are also ongoing technical issues that have seen some of the older plants shut down or forced to lower output.

READ ALSO Why is France so obsessed with nuclear?

France is usually a net exporter of electricity, but at peak times it has to import electricity, usually via the high-priced international spot market.

It does, however, import its gas, mostly via pipeline – in 2020 its biggest supplier was Norway, followed by Russia.

The French government has launched a sobriété energetique (energy sobriety) plan to cut its total energy consumption by 10 percent this year, which it hopes will allow it to get through the winter without Russian gas. 


Even before the recent €65 billion aid package, the French government was taking a pro-active role in helping people deal with rising prices – from the price shield to fuel rebates for drivers, €100 grants for low-income households and financial aid for industries such as agriculture and logistics so they could avoid passing prices on the consumers.

Cynics say this happened for two reasons – because there were elections in April and June and because the French would riot if their utility bills suddenly doubled.

There’s a kernel of truth in both – cost of living became a major issue in the April presidential elections and one that far-right leader Marine Le Pen very much made her own from early in the campaign, leaving Emmanuel Macron slightly on the back foot, although in truth his government had already introduced several measures to ease the burden on ordinary voters.

It’s also true that the French have a robust approach to holding their government to account, and high living costs have previously inspired noisy and sometime violent protests – the ‘yellow vest’ movement of 2018 and 19 began as a protest over living costs.

But it’s also true that the French State is generally quite involved in people’s everyday lives – as evidenced by those monthly gas and electricity price rates – and taking a laissez-faire approach such as that seen in the UK would be unusual for any French government, even outside of election season.