Advertisement

French Elections For Members

Who will be France's next prime minister?

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
Who will be France's next prime minister?
Who will get the keys to Matignon, the traditional residence of France's prime minister? Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP

As France digests the surprise results of snap legislative elections, what's at stake is the balance of power in the parliament - personified through the prime minister. So who will be the next PM?

Advertisement

The final results, released on Monday morning by the Interior ministry show the leftist alliance Nouveau Front Populaire in the lead with 182 seats, followed by Macron's centrists on 168, the far-right Rassemblement National in third on 143 and the centre-right Les Républicains in fourth with 45 seats.

However no party or group got the 289 seats required for a majority in parliament. Find the latest here.

With no party or group winning an absolute majority in parliament, it's likely that there will be much negotiation to come.

What happens next in France after bombshell election results?

Here's how it works;

Listen to the team at The Local France discuss the latest election results in a special episode of the Talking France podcast. Download here or listen on the link below

 

The president

In France presidential and parliamentary elections are separate and Emmanuel Macron was re-elected in 2022 with a mandate until 2027 - in the run-up to the election he insisted that he will remain the president whatever the result. 

There are only three ways that a president can leave office early - death, resignation or impeachment.

Advertisement

The elections were to determine the make-up of the Assemblée nationale - although the French president has a significant amount of power, he is very limited in terms of passing any legislation if he does not have a majority in parliament.

The leader of the parliament is the prime minister.

READ ALSO What does a French prime minister actually do?

Who picks the PM?

In France a prime minister is not directly elected - they are appointed by the president. The PM can either be an MP, a senator or someone from outside the world of politics entirely.

When a president's party has an absolute majority in parliament, then the picking of the prime minister is purely a personal choice - usually it will be a close ally, someone politically useful or someone who the president reckons will make them look good.

Advertisement

When a party other than the president's has a majority then things get a lot more complicated and the picking of a prime minister is the subject of political horse-trading as a 'cohabitation' is created.

But if no party wins a majority - as is the case here - then things get very complicated indeed. 

Article 8 of the constitution affirms that the choice of PM remains entirely at the president's discretion, whether they have a majority or not.

In reality, however, there's no point picking someone who none of the assembly members will agree to work with, and who will be voted out at the earliest opportunity via a motion of no confidence (motion de censure).

Advertisement

So it seems likely that Macron will be forced to pick a prime minister who is not from his centrist political group.

The constitution does not specify a particular time limit in which to pick a new prime minister.

So who are the possible candidates?

Gabriel Attal - the current prime minister is 35-year-old Macron protege Attal. Macron's party has now been pushed into second place so he will be unlikely to be able to hold onto the role.

However if, as seems likely, it takes a while to decide on the new PM he could stay in post until the new candidate is picked. He has announced that he will hand his resignation to Macron on Monday - but added that he will stay on for as long as is required.

The largest group within the parliament is the leftist alliance Nouveau Front Populaire - which says it is ready to govern.

One of the main figureheads of the NFP, hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, said: “The president must bow down and admit this defeat. The Prime Minister must go."

“Tonight, justice has won” said Marine Tondelier from France’s Green party, which forms part of the NFP. "We will govern," she added.

Advertisement

However, exactly who they will pick to nominate as prime minister is a complicated question - the parties within the alliance have some significant points of difference while there have also been divisions within La France Insoumise itself.

For the three pre-election TV debates the alliance nominated a different candidate for each - none of whom are regarded as front-runners for the PM job. 

Here's a non-exhaustive list of some of the suggested candidates to be the 'locataire de Matignon'.

READ MORE: French far right blasts 'alliance of dishonour' as left celebrates shock win

Jean-Luc Mélenchon - as the founder of La France Insoumise (the largest party within the leftist block) three-time presidential candidate Mélenchon might seem to be the natural choice.

However he is a divisive figure even within his own party and seems to have a gift for falling out with allies. For many on the more moderate wing of the alliance - the Parti Socialiste and the Greens - he is not an acceptable candidate and even some members of his own party said during the campaign that he was a stumbling block for many more moderate voters.

Advertisement

Manuel Bompard - Bompard is the leader of La France Insoumise since Mélenchon stepped down and was also the Nouveau Front Populaire representative in the first TV debate where he put in a reasonable if unspectacular performance. Despite these qualifications, however, he is not regarded as a front-runner for the PM job.

François Ruffin - also an LFI member but less divisive than Mélenchon and more willing to work with other parties. A skilled communicator and popular within the left, he is a former journalist (and director of the Michel-Moore style film Merci Patron !). Formerly regarded as a Mélenchon ally he dramatically split with his boss during the election campaign, saying that Mélenchon himself turned off many voters.

Advertisement

Fabien Roussel - as leader of the Communist party, Roussel is obviously to the far left of the group. On a personal level he has worked hard to come over as more reasonable, pragmatic, and open to compromise than Mélenchon, but would be deemed too radical for many. He lost his seat as an MP in the first round of the elections, which does not necessarily disqualify him (prime ministers do not have to be members of the house) but would make his candidature less likely.

Olivier Faure - the NPF's representative in the second TV debate, Faure is a long-standing MP and leader of the Parti Socialiste group in parliament. A personable politician and good communicator, his strong identification with the centre-left makes him unacceptable to some of the more radical elements of the alliance, but his party has done better than expected in these elections, putting him in a stronger position.

François Hollande - a wildcard candidate, but possible. The former president was elected as MP for the Corrèze area in central France for Parti Socialiste. Certainly experienced in politics, but he did make history as the president with the lowest ever approval ratings.

Laurent Berger - the former leader of France's largest union the CFDT (he retired last year), Berger has been proposed as a unity candidate. He doesn't have overt links with any of the four parties on the left and as a union leader was generally regarded as a moderate capable of compromise. He has, however, no experience of party politics.

Carole Delga - president of the southern Occitanie region since 2016, Delga is a member of the centre-left Parti Socialiste. A popular regional leader, she has been suggested as someone who has not been part of the Paris power-play between left groups.

Raphaël Glucksmann - Credited with helping to 'revive France's centre-left' during the European elections, Glucksmann is an essayist, son of a celebrated philosopher, and co-founder of the centre-left Place Publique party. Glucksmann endorsed the left-wing coalition, the Nouveau Front Populaire during the snap parliamentary elections. However, he has been criticised by those further to the left, including those belonging to La France Insoumise and the Green Party, for being a social-liberal, “another François Hollande”, “disconnected” from the working class, “ungrounded” in real, domestic politics.

Marine Tondelier - The head of the green party, Tondelier was quick to push for a united left-wing coalition against the far-right following the European elections. She is known for wearing a trademark green blazer, and she appeared on several talk-shows in the days leading up to the second-round of the parliamentary elections. She has held the positions of local councillor, community councillor and regional councillor.

Other names mentioned include former Parti Socialiste MP for Tarn-et-Garonne Valérie Rabault, Boris Vallaud (former leader of the Parti Socialiste parliamentary group) and the socialist mayor of Rouen Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol.

Someone else - the wildcard option is that Macron appoints someone from outside the domestic political world entirely - someone who has no party affiliation and who the various warring political factions may, just may, be prepared to work with.

This may be a solution to a deadlocked parliament but would likely be slammed as undemocratic by the leftist group.

It's also hard to see exactly who would be acceptable to all groups - some names thrown around at the early stage include European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde and Senate leader Gérard Larcher, however both of them are to the right of the political spectrum.

A few people have also suggested France's football star Kylian Mbappé - we're pretty sure this is a joke but he's certainly more popular than most politicians.

Jordan Bardella - the far-right Rassemblement National's candidate was to have been 28-year party leader Bardella, and he was certainly grooming himself for the role in the week leading up to round two.

However as the party came in third place, Bardella has pretty much no chance of a crack at the role (for now, anyway).

Marine Le Pen had always ruled out taking on the role, preferring to focus on her 2027 presidential bid.

More

Comments (1)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Pam 2024/06/21 09:23
A very useful summary and guide. Thank you.

See Also