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French elections: What happens next after Macron loses majority in parliament?

French president Emmanuel Macron has lost his majority in parliament - so what does all this mean and what happens now?

French elections: What happens next after Macron loses majority in parliament?
France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, speaking after results showed that Emmanuel Macron had lost his parliamentary majority. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

Results from the second round of voting on Sunday show that Macron’s centrist coalition Ensemble has won the largest number of seats in parliament – but not enough for a majority.

Ensemble has 245 seats – short of the 289 required for a majority – while the leftist coalition Nupes came second with 131 and Marine Le Pen’s far-right party got 89.

This doesn’t affect Macron’s position as president – he was re-elected in April and can remain in the Elysée until 2027 – but has huge implications for how his second term unfolds.

Of Macron’s 28-strong cabinet, 15 ministers were standing for election or re-election. Technically a minister who fails to be elected or re-elected as MP does not have to stand down from their ministerial role, but Macron has said that he expects any defeated ministers to stand down.

The health, environment and maritime ministers all lost their seats, but the rest of the cabinet remains intact.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne – standing as an MP for the first time – won her seat in Calvados, Normandy.

So what happens next?

Negotiations

Although Macron remains in place as president, any laws that he wants to pass – including very controversial reforms such as raising the pension age to 65 – have to pass through parliament, and within the two French parliaments the lower house, the Assemblée nationale, plays the most crucial role.

Deprived of an outright majority with Ensemble – an alliance of Macron’s La République en Marche party, centrists MoDem and Horizon, the new party formed by ex PM Edouard Philippe – Macron will need to create a group of like-minded MPs in order to pass any legislation over the next five years.

Macron, Borne and their team, will therefore begin negotiations to try and build a coalition in parliament.

Speaking on Sunday evening, Borne said: “We will work from tomorrow to build a working majority.”

They have the option of trying to build a permanent grouping, or govern as a minority, putting together alliances on a vote-by-vote basis. 

The most likely candidates for alliance appear to be the MPs of the centre-right Les Républicains party (LR), although some have suggested that Macron will attempt to divide the Nupes leftist coalition and entice some of the more moderate MPs, such as the centre-left Parti Socialiste or Greens, into an alliance.

The negotiations are likely to take some time and involve a lot of horse-trading.

However, they will need to have something in place by Tuesday, July 5th, as Jean-Luc Mélenchon has indicated that the Nupes alliance intends to table a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on that date.

New government

There will also need to be a government reshuffle to replace the ministers who lost their seats.

The current government was only formed in May, after Macron was re-elected in April, so it’s unclear whether Macron will simply fill the roles of the defeated ministers, or perform a more radical reshuffle to bring in ministers who reflect the views of the groups that he ends up in coalition with.

Campaign poster reading in French “Melenchon, Prime Minister” Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

Mélenchon

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left La France Insoumise and the man largely credited with uniting four leftist parties into the Nupes alliance, had hoped to be named France’s next prime minister.

This now looks very unlikely, since his Nupes alliance has failed in its bid to be the largest party in parliament, an event that could have forced Macron into a ‘cohabitation‘, with Mélenchon as PM.

Mélenchon himself, at the age of 70, decided not to stand for re-election in his constituency of Bouches-du-Rhône (Marseille) so is now technically unemployed, although he will doubtless remain influential as the leader of the second-largest group in parliament. 

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POLITICS

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

Foreigners living in France could get the right to vote in certain elections if a newly-created bill passes through parliament.

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

The newly elected president of the National Assembly’s law commission calmly lobbed a 40-year-old electoral hand-grenade into the political discourse of the summer – and then went on holiday.

Sacha Houlié, MP for the Vienne and a member of Macron’s LREM party, filed a bill on Monday that would, if passed, allow non-EU citizens living in France to vote and stand for office in local elections. 

Under current electoral legislation, only French citizens can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections; EU citizens in France can vote in local and European elections; and non-EU citizens have no voting rights in France whatsoever. 

EU citizens can also stand for office in local elections, but are barred from becoming mayor or running for a seat in the Assembly.

Since Brexit, Britons in France have not been allowed to vote in local or  local office, any many Brits who were on their local councils had to resign because they were no longer EU citizens.

Many countries limit voting for their citizens who are out of the country, so non-EU citizens living in France often do not have the right to vote in any country.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and the far-right Rassemblement National wasted little time criticising Houlié’s bill.

Darminin’s entourage said that the minister was “firmly opposed” to the idea.

The far-right party went further. “We have crossed the limits of indecency and incomprehension of what the French are asking for,” Rassemblement national spokesperson Laurent Jacobelli told Franceinfo, echoing the sentiment of the party’s interim president Jordan Bardella, who insisted the passing of the bill would mark the, “final dispossession of the French from their country”.

Houlié said: “The right to vote for European Union nationals in local elections already exists in France. No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections. But it has surprised many people that the British can no longer do it since Brexit.”

Given the current shape of the Parliament in France, it seems unlikely that the latest bill will pass. But it is far from the first time it has been on the table.

François Mitterrand had pledged during his presidential campaign in 1981 to ensure “the right to vote in municipal elections after five years of presence on French territory.”

But, in the face of opposition from the right, he backed down from this particular promise. 

In October 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, tried to move forward with an electoral plan that would have allowed non-EU citizens certain voting rights – but was blocked by his own UMP party.

François Hollande re-launched the proposal during his 2012 campaign, before quietly letting it go in the face of opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

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