Politics For Members

What do snap parliamentary elections mean for France?

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
What do snap parliamentary elections mean for France?
Activists wearing masks depicting France's President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen gather outside the French parliament. Photo by AFP

In a surprise move, French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday evening called snap parliamentary elections after his centrist group suffered a heavy defeat in the EU vote.


Voting for the European elections closed at 8pm on Sunday in France with the provisional results showing a heavy defeat for Macron's centrist group at the hands of Marine Le Pen's far-right party Rassemblement National.

Macron immediately called a meeting with his advisers and just an hour later gave an unscheduled TV appearance in which he announced that he had dissolved the French parliament and called fresh parliamentary elections.

The first round of voting will be in just three weeks, on June 30th, followed by round two on July 7th.

So what does this all mean?


The position of the president himself is not directly affected by the new elections. In France presidential elections and parliamentary elections are held separately - Macron was re-elected in 2022 and has a mandate until 2027.


The results of the parliamentary elections do not change this.

Although they will, obviously, make a big difference to what he can do with the final three years of his mandate.


The parliamentary elections of 2022 ended in a deadlock. Macron's party won the largest number of seats but fell short of an absolute majority. 

Since 2022, Macron's centrist group has been the largest group in parliament, followed by the NUPES - an increasingly fragmented and fragile coalition of left-wing parties - with Le Pen's RN party in third place.

The right-wing Les Républicains - former party of Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, now much reduced - form a small but significant block, with just enough MPs to act as power-brokers.

The result has been chaotic with Macron's party hamstrung but no other party has been powerful enough to bring them down, despite various attempts.

Some legislation has been passed, but Macron has been forced to use controversial constitutional tools to push through some new laws including his contested pension reform.

The new elections

Legislative elections will be held to elect the 577 deputés who sit in the Assemblée Nationale. Voting takes place using the two round system; people will head to the polls on Sunday, June 30th, and cast their vote for their local constituency (circonscription) MP. If any candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, they are elected as the representative for that area.

If no candidate wins an absolute majority in the first round, a second round is held where all candidates that won more than 12.5 percent of the initial vote can compete. After this second round, whoever wins the greatest number of votes gains the seat

This gives parties a 'block' of MPs in parliament, and some parties traditionally group together to form a larger voting block - for example Macron's party is currently joined in a voting block by two smaller centrist parties - MoDem and the new centrist party set up by former PM Edouard Philippe (Horizons).


Any block that has an outright majority gets to direct legislation through parliament by either supporting or blocking proposed bills.


Macron risky decision to call elections in the aftermath of a heavy defeat in the EU elections could break the deadlock in parliament and give him a favourable majority - but what if it doesn't?

There are several options depending on the result - if Macron's party once again fails to win an outright majority he can attempt to form a coalition with any party that has enough seats to form a majority.

However if that fails, and if there is another party that does have a majority, then he may be forced into a cohabitation.

Explained: What is a French 'cohabitation'?

Essentially this is a deal - when a party other than the president's agrees to form a government, in exchange for their demands, which is normally that a senior member of their party is appointed prime minister.

The president and the prime minister of opposing parties then attempt to govern together in 'cohabitation' - which is usually a very uneasy alliance.

Presidents François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac were both forced to do this for part of their presidencies, but the last such arrangement ended in 2002.

If Le Pen's party repeats its European election success on a domestic level, Macron may well be forced to appoint either Le Pen or her deputy Jordan Bardella as prime minister.


Comments (1)

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Paul ROBERTS 2024/06/09 23:17
This is a depressingly dangerous evolution in both French politics and European democracy. Nobody should doubt the potential for unintended consequences as a result of this vacuous myopic drift to the extreme right. The empowerment of extremism is a hostage to fortune where law, order, and social cohesion inevitably breaks down. Look no further than the UK, or the USA under Trump to see, quite clearly, the obvious outcomes. France, and Europe, needs to take a long, deep breath before wrecking itself on the rocks of history. Be very, very careful what you wish for.

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