Reader question: Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

After losing his parliamentary majority, president Emmanuel Macron has been attempting to build alliances with other parties, but does he have the option to dissolve the Assemblée nationale and call another election?

Reader question: Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?
A general view of the hemicycle of the French National Assembly in Paris. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

Macron finds himself in an unenviable position.

His Ensemble group only won 245 of the deputé seats in the Assemblé Nationale during the parliamentary elections – that makes Ensemble the largest group, but falls significantly short of the 289 needed to govern with an absolute majority.

This will make Macron’s next five years in office considerably more challenging, marked by concessions, deals, and compromises with opposing parties if he wants to pass any legislation.

So, could Macron simply dissolve parliament and call a snap election? While the answer is technically yes, the “how” and “when” parts of the equation are a bit more complicated, and not all experts agree.

When could this happen?

Guillaume Tusseau, a professor of public law at Sciences Po Paris, told French newspaper Le Figaro that Article 12 of France’s Constitution says that “the President of the Republic may, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the presidents of the assemblies, pronounce the dissolution” of the latter.

The text does provide three safeguards for the procedure: It is forbidden to resort to it when the exceptional powers of Article 16 of the constitution are in force (basically, not allowed during a State of Emergency); when an interim president is in charge, or if a dissolution has already taken place within that year.

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

The one-year limit is causing some dispute – does this mean that Macron would have to wait until June 2023 to dissolve parliament, or can he do it now?

According to Tusseau, since the newly elected parliament was formed via the classical democratic process (and not through dissolution), Macron would not need to wait a year. Most experts agree with this interpretation, but not all.

If he did have to wait a year, the timescale on that is confusing too.

The text in the Constitution uses the term “l’année qui vient” (the coming year) to place a timeline on when dissolution can take place: some understand it as the calendar year (as in, prior to January 1st, 2023), while others understand it to mean a full year in duration later (as in June 20th, 2023). 

How does he dissolve parliament?

Assuming Macron does have the constitutional right, how does he go about dissolving parliament?

He would need to first consult with the prime minister (Élisabeth Borne), the president of the Senate (Gérard Larcher, who is part of the opposition Les Républicains party) and the president of the Assemblée nationale.

This is where it gets tricky: Richard Ferrand, the current president of the Assembly was defeated in his re-election campaign, so his post is currently empty. A vote is scheduled on June 28th, where the deputés (MPs) will come together to elect a new candidate.

However, if Macron did choose to start the dissolution process, the new parliamentary elections would need to take place between 20 and 40 days after the dissolution, according to the Constitution. 

Is it likely that he will?

Moving away from the technicalities, there is also a political aspect. Macron would do so assuming that a new vote would give him the majority that he needs – but would it?

Many see it as “political suicide,” including some in his own camp.

So far, government spokesperson, Olivia Gregoire, has come out and said it is “not on the table.” While Agriculture Minister, Marc Fesneau said dissolving parliament would be “quite destructive” and that “the voters have decided.” 

Macron himself gave a brief speech to the nation on Wednesday night, speaking of the need to “build a different style of government” that involved more “dialogue and listening”.

He did not mention dissolving parliament, but did give a veiled ultimatum to opposition parties to state their position.

Macron has the option of ruling in a minority government for now – trying to put together temporary alliances to get important bills such as the latest package of financial aid for households during the cost-of-living crisis – and then dissolving parliament at a later date, perhaps in the autumn.

Many experts believe that he will call an election either in the fall or the first half of 2023.

Is there precedent for this?

The decision to dissolve parliament would be highly controversial, especially so close to the most recent parliamentary election, but it is not unprecedented in French history.

Three other French presidents have dissolved the Assemblée nationale during France’s Fifth Republic: Charles de Gaulle in 1961 and again in 1968; François Mitterrand in 1981 and 1988; and finally Jacques Chirac in 1997.

Sometimes this has worked out as the presidents intended, but not always – in 1997 Chirac’s intention of gaining a larger majority was flipped on its head when the left actually came out with the majority, forcing him into a cohabitation with Lionel Jospin. 

Vote of no confidence

Finally, you might be wondering, can Macron himself be the subject of a vote of no confidence?

As Macron is the President of the Republic, and not the prime minister (who is tasked with domestic affairs), he cannot suffer a no-confidence vote himself. However, his government – represented by the Prime Minister – can. 

The hard-left party,La France Insoumise says it intends to call a vote of no confidence against prime minister Elisabeth Borne on July 5th, the day she is set to announce her government’s programme. However the party – and even the leftist alliance that it was part of during the election campaign – does not have enough seats in parliament to push this through on its own. 

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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.