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Key Lessons from the 2022 French Legislative Elections

Published Jul 08, 2022

Toluna

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After Emmanuel Macron was re-elected as President of the Republic, three distinct blocks were formed for the legislative elections: one each around the president-elect, Marine Le Pen, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. These three blocks have had varying fates:

Victory in the presidential election is a usually a sign of peaceful legislative elections. Other than in 1988, the political parties backing the newly elected President have always had a majority in the National Assembly. This time, however, it was not the case for Emmanuel Macron. The erasure of the presidential figure throughout the campaign, as well as the delayed appointment of a Prime Minister and a government, proved detrimental. We did not see any momentum build after the presidential election—no rebound in confidence and no force capable of mobilizing his voters. As a result, Renaissance was only able to win 245 seats with its allies from the MoDem, Agir and Horizons—a far cry from the 346 deputies comprising the presidential majority at the end of the previous legislative elections.

Marine Le Pen came in second in the presidential election with more than 13 million votes (over 41% of the votes cast), a significant increase over her performance in 2017 (10.6 million votes, 21.3%). Little by little, the idea of a “Republican front”—wherein left-wing and right-wing parties would join forces to stop the Rassemblement National by voting for each others’ candidates—has been eroded. The Rassemblement National, which had only eight representatives in the lower house of Parliament in 2017, is now the third largest group in the National Assembly, with 89 deputies (88 of whom won in head-to-head elections). The Rassemblement National is a force that the current majority will be forced to reckon with, an unprecedented situation in the 5th Republic.

While the first two political movements were already well established before the presidential election, the campaign between the presidential and legislative elections saw the birth of a new one, NUPES. This alliance between four left-wing parties—Parti Communiste, La France Insoumise, Europe-Ecologie-Les-Verts, and Parti Socialiste—which had carried four different candidates in the presidential election, thought that they could impose on Emmanuel Macron by nominating Jean-Luc Mélenchon as Prime Minister if they obtained a majority in the legislative elections. This momentum seems to have carried through the legislative election. As traditional right-wing formations such as Les Républicains lose seats in the National Assembly, the left is seeing its influence rise; 131 deputies were elected through the groups that comprise NUPES—compared to 60 deputies in 2017.

And what about Les Républicains? By managing to keep only 61 deputies in the National Assembly (compared to 120 in the previous legislature), the party appears to be in decline. However, they do still have an important local presence, despite the historically poor performance by Valérie Pécresse in the presidential election. The important question left to answer is how they will interact with the government; they have indicated that they want to position themselves in the opposition, while the government will seek to change their minds and enlist their help to pass bills.

What can we expect for the future?

The government finds itself in a peculiar situation. During his first term, Emmanuel Macron had a majority in the National Assembly, allowing him to pass the bills he wanted with relative ease. The social movements and demands that occupied the public sphere during the last five years (Yellow Vests, anti-sanitary pass, strikes by healthcare or police personnel, mobilization against pension reform, etc.), were often relayed and supported by the opposition forces. However, they were not able to influence the majority. Now that the legislative elections have changed the balance of power, the government will have to deal with different political forces. Is France ready to govern on a German-style coalition model? The latest statements of the representatives of the different parties show that cooperation will be difficult to achieve. For his part, the President of the Republic seemed to advocate a different majority for each bill, but it has yet to be seen how this government will function and how sustainable it will be.

How will the government govern? With which political formations? And for how long? The possibility of dissolving the National Assembly, which was raised on the evening of the legislative results, is still real. On the left, there is also the question of the future of the NUPES. Will it be structured and unified? Or will the groups separate when the first bills are presented to the National Assembly? On the far right, how will the 89 deputies of the Rassemblement National behave?

All of these questions show that France is starting a new chapter in its political life, the lines of which are still very unclear. One thing is clear, though: French citizens are waiting for strong actions on issues that are impacting their delay life—such as purchasing power, pensions, security, employment, and the environment—and they are willing to give more power to this new National Assembly, and therefore, the opposition, to obtain them.

A new period in French democratic life is taking shape, and we at Harris Interactive and Toluna are proud to use our insights to enlighten citizens and analysts alike.

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