Home News France has learned a new word: ungovernable

France has learned a new word: ungovernable


Instead of waking up on Monday to find itself dominated by the far right, France found itself transformed into Italy, a country where only arduous parliamentary negotiations could eventually produce a viable coalition government.

France rejected Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Rally party in legislative elections, reaffirming its deep-seated resistance to nationalist adventures. France elected a resurgent but far from empowered left wing, and the heart of French politics shifted from the all-powerful presidency to parliament.

The Paris Olympics open in less than three weeks, and August’s huge crowds heading to the beach or mountains for vacations are a sacred part of French life. Talks to form a government are likely to drag on into the fall, when France will need one to pass a budget. An election that threatened to spark an uprising ended in a deadlock.

this New Popular FrontThe bitterly divided but resilient leftist coalition came in first in the National Assembly with about 180 seats. It immediately asked President Emmanuel Macron to form a government and said it would nominate a prime minister next week.

The demand overlooks several things. Under the constitution, Mr Macron has the right to choose his prime minister. The New Popular Front is 100 seats short of a viable majority in the 577-seat National Assembly. It was not the left-wing coalition’s plan that won all the seats, but rather the plan and the decision by the centre and left to form a united “Republican Front” to confront the National Rally in the second round of voting.

Still, combative left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said he would not negotiate with potential coalition partners or change a single sentence in his party’s platform.

All this does not help to clear the thick fog that Macron’s early “clarification” of the election has brought to Paris.

France has a presidential system and does not have the culture of compromise that builds coalitions. “We know nothing about it,” said political scientist Nicole Bacharan. “We are a country that wants to be Napoleon.”

Napoleon now had to endure difficult negotiations over an agreed agenda between parties with huge differences in national priorities.

For example, the New Popular Front wants to lower the retirement age from 64 to 60, a year after Macron raised it from 62 after a fierce battle. Macron wants to make cutting the budget deficit a priority; the New Popular Front wants to raise the minimum wage and freeze energy and gas prices. Macron’s government passed an immigration bill earlier this year that tightens the rules for foreigners to work, live and study in France. The left has promised to make asylum procedures more relaxed.

The division of the National Assembly into left, center, and right camps did not provide a straightforward basis for building a working coalition.

Macron’s centrist coalition has about 160 lawmakers, down from 250, while the National Rally and its allies have about 140, up from 89. France has again blocked a far-right party from power but has not halted its rise, fueled by anger over immigration and rising living costs.

Macron said after a meeting with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Monday that he had asked Attal to stay in office “for the time being” to “ensure stability in the country.” Attal was once one of Macron’s favoriteshas submitted his resignation.

Attal, who has parted ways with Macron and is apparently eyeing a run for succession in 2027, said in a pointed speech on Sunday evening that “dissolving the National Assembly is not an option for me.” He went on to say, “Tonight, a new era begins. From tomorrow, the weight of power will rest in the hands of Parliament, more than ever before, in accordance with the will of the French people.”

It is hard to imagine a more direct indictment of Mr Macron’s highly personal, top-down style of governing and his general disdain for the National Assembly, especially coming from his former protégé.

Macron, who is term-limited and must leave office in 2027, has been unusually silent over the past few days. Although his party lost a third of its seats, the election was not as disastrous for him as widely expected. He escaped humiliation; he proved that a huge victory for the National Rally in the European Parliament does not necessarily lead to the same result in a national election. That is no small feat.

He is now expected to spend time consulting with the expanded parties to explore any possible alliance. The order from the Elysee Palace, the seat of the presidency, was “calm”.

The president has two red lines: working with the National Rally, whose young leader Jordan Bardra had hoped to become prime minister, and with the far-left France Indomitable party led by Mélenchon, which Macron accuses of anti-Semitism. He will try to persuade moderate left parties, including the Socialists and the Greens, as well as mainstream conservatives, to join the coalition.

On Wednesday, Macron will travel to Washington for a NATO summit, where he will demonstrate that his authority on the international stage, traditionally the preserve of French presidents, has not waned and that France’s commitment to support Ukraine will not waver amid tensions in the country. Political uncertainty is rampant in the U.S..

If Biden’s health is the hot topic in Washington, Macron’s way of exercising power is the hot topic in Paris. Will he now have to correct the course of Attal’s “new era” centered on parliament?

“Today we end the Jupiter phase of the Fifth Republic,” said Raphael Glucksmann, a prominent socialist.

In 2016, before he took office, Macron used the term “Jupiterian” to describe his style of governing. He mused that a powerful figure with near-godlike authority was more attractive to the French than the “normal” presidency of François Hollande. The French, he suggested, prefer the mystique of great power.

Judging from Macron’s seven years in power, this seems to be true to a certain extent.

“We are in a divided parliament, so we have to act like adults,” said Mr Glucksmann, who led the Socialists to success in last month’s European Parliament elections. “That means we have to negotiate, have a dialogue and accept the fact that the National Assembly is the centre of power.”

He described this as a “fundamental change in political culture”.

It is estimated that the Indomitable France party holds 75 of the 180 seats in the new Popular Front, the Socialists hold about 65, the Greens hold about 33 and the Communists hold less than 10. Keeping the coalition together will be difficult, as Mr. Glucksmann’s comments indicate.

In theory, as a moderate accustomed to forming coalitions in the European Parliament, Glucksmann could be a candidate for chancellor in a coalition that includes the Socialists, the Greens, the Communists, Macron’s centrist bloc and about 60 mainstream conservative lawmakers from the Republican Party.

But of course, Mr. Glucksmann’s approach and beliefs clash with Mr. Mélenchon, who refuses to talk to potential partners, and with Mr. Macron.

There is no sign of compromise, at least not yet.

Although the Olympic flame is set to arrive in the French capital on July 14, Bastille Day (the day France commemorates the French Revolution and the beheading of monarchs), escaping the fog of France’s post-election election will not be easy.

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