Sunday

20th Aug 2017

Analysis

Macron faces challenges after foretold victory

  • Macron in his Elysee office: "We're going to have many elected people ... We will have to supervise them to avoid a mess" (Photo: elysee.fr)

On Sunday (18 June), French president Emmanuel Macron will have achieved the most spectacular takeover in French modern history.

But he will face risky challenges: managing a massive but heterogeneous and inexperienced majority in parliament in a country that is socially unstable.

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According to the latest opinion polls, Macron's party, La Republique en Marche (LRM, The Republic on the Move), could capture up to 470 seats in the second round of the legislative elections.

That would amount to more than three-fifths of the 577-seat National Assembly, the French parliament's lower house,

It would leave the two main traditional parties, the center-right Republicans and the Socialist Party, with only 70 to 90 seats and 20-30 seats, respectively.

The far-right National Front (FN), whose leader, Marine Le Pen, faced Macron in the run-off for the presidential election in May, would get one to five seats, behind the radical-left Unbowed France (five to 15 seats).

Le Pen's defeat, as well as her poor performance in the presidential debate against Macron and an internal party controversy over whether to continue to defend a French exit from the euro, have demobilised FN voters during the legislative campaign.

The victory of LRM, a political movement that was founded only a year ago and is still not officially organised as a party, will follow Macron's own victory with 66.1 percent against Le Pen in his first ever political campaign.

Macron chose a Republican prime minister, Edouard Philippe, with a government that includes members of the right, centre, and left, as well as non-politicians.

In the process, he destabilised the established parties and will benefit from France's political tradition by which voters give the new president a majority.

Restive public opinion

But Macron's triumph remains fragile.

In the first round, last Sunday (11 June) only 47.62 percent of registered voters cast a valid ballot. The turnout is expected to be as low on Sunday, and would be the lowest since the 5th Republic was established in 1958.

"The new majority should not make the mistake of thinking that voters gave them a blank cheque," political scientist Yves-Marie Cann told Les Echos newspaper. "They have been lucky that there was no mobilisation against them".

According to a poll by OpinionWay published on Thursday, only 48 percent of people said they wanted that Macron has a majority.

If he is unlikely to have to deal with strong opposition in parliament, Macron could face a restive public opinion when he tries to introduce controversial measures such as a reform of the labour code to make lay-offs easier.

French voters have shown that they were ready to push out their leaders and vote for radical candidates on the left and right.

But Macron and Philippe could also have to manage a chaotic majority in the assembly.

'Avoiding a mess'

"We're going to have many elected people, almost too many. We will have to supervise them to avoid a mess," Macron was quoted as saying by the Canard Enchaine weekly, which is usually well-informed.

Big majorities are usually difficult to manage, because "subgroups or political clubs are created", political scientist Olivier Rozenberg pointed out in Liberation, a daily.

In addition, LRM is an assembly of people with different political views who are disillusioned with their traditional parties on the left and right, as well as of people with no political experience at all.

Next week, as the new MPs take their seats, Macron will participate in his first EU summit in Brussels.



Almost two months after his shock election, he will start to be tested on both his domestic and his EU ambitions for reform.

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The new French president's party is expected to come ahead in the first round of the legislative elections on Sunday and win a large majority in the run-off.

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