Macron’s Suspended Parliament Dilemma: What Next?

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French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after casting his vote in the second round of the French legislative elections, at a polling station in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France, June 19, 2022. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

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PARIS, June 19 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron and his allies on Sunday lost their absolute majority in the National Assembly and with it control of the reform agenda, a crushing result for the newly re-elected president. Read more

There is no set scenario in France for how things will now unfold as Macron and his centrist bloc Ensemble seek a way forward to avoid paralysis. Here are the possible scenarios.

A COALITION AGREEMENT

This was the rule during the Third and Fourth Republics before 1958, but coalitions were so unstable that governments often lasted only a few months.

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This instability, which some observers say even led to France’s early defeat by Nazi Germany in 1939 leaving the country unprepared, is why post-war leader Charles de Gaulle , drafted a new constitution for the Fifth Republic with sweeping presidential powers and a two-way system designed to give the president a strong majority.

As a result, coalition building has not been a feature of post-war politics in France, leaving the political class with minimal experience or tradition in consensus building, unlike other countries like the Netherlands or Germany.

Macron can still try to reach out to the conservative Les Républicains, the only mainstream party with the numbers to push him above the threshold of 289 for an outright majority.

Last week, Macron quietly contacted the leader of the Senate, veteran LR Gérard Larcher, a government source told Reuters, suggesting he was paving the way for such a scenario.

Senior LR officials were quick to pour cold water on a formal coalition on Sunday, however.

OFFERS ON A BILL-BY-BILL BASIS

If a coalition is not possible, the president may have to negotiate bill by bill.

Only once before, under the Fifth Republic, has a president with a minority government found himself negotiating deals bill by bill.

In 1988, Socialist President François Mitterrand failed to secure an absolute majority and over the next five years had to seek compromises with other parties, sometimes with the centre-right, on other occasions with the once powerful Communist Party.

Major laws, such as the creation of a tax to help fund social welfare still in place today, were enacted although sometimes the bills only passed by a handful of votes.

The Republicans, the party of former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, would be the obvious partner, especially on economic policy.

The same senior LR officials who dismissed the prospect of a coalition said their party would be open to approving legislation on a case-by-case basis.

“If certain bills go in the right direction, obviously LR will vote for them, but there will be no pact with Emmanuel Macron,” said Cécile Richez, deputy head of LR.

Macron’s government spokeswoman, Olivia Gregoire, said the government would reach out to moderate voices on the left and right.

Sources close to Macron also say LR could at some point split in two, with some lawmakers persuaded to defect to Ensemble.

In either scenario involving conservative support, the position of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, a left-wing technocrat, becomes more perilous.

CHAOS

If the French parties fail to agree on anything, paralysis will ensue. A minority government would have only limited administrative power and might not even be able to pass the budget bill at the end of the year.

As president, Macron has the power to call early legislative elections at any time. He may want to take the risk after a long period of paralysis.

But it is not guaranteed to obtain the majority in the second round.

Jacques Chirac lost his majority when he called a snap election he thought he would win in 1997, ushering in a period of cohabitation with a new Socialist-led majority and losing virtually all the levers of power.

If Macron loses again, he won’t be able to call new elections for another year. Calls for institutional reform, and perhaps even Macron’s resignation, would certainly grow louder.

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Reporting and writing by Michel Rose; additional reporting by Caroline Pailliez Editing by Nick Zieminski

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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