Last night was a poor one for the President. His Ensemble coalition appear neck and neck with La Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale, the ultra-left coalition led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both on just over 25 per cent. The presidential majority of Emmanuel Macron is in grave danger after that first round of the Assembly elections. ‘The President’s party is defeated,’ declared Mélenchon last night, although it’s still rather premature to say so.
In third place are the candidates of Marine Le Pen, on 19.7 per cent, fourth are centrist parties including Les Républicains, on 12.5 per cent, fifth Éric Zemmour’s Reconquête on 4.2 per cent, with fringe parties mopping up the rest. Zemmour’s own effort to get to the second round from the constituency of Saint Tropez looks complicated.
It remains impossible to precisely translate these voting estimations into seats to be won in next week’s second round of voting. There’s little chance that Mélenchon’s alliance of the left, including greens, communists and socialists, can achieve a majority in the 577 seat Assembly. But it can deny Macron a majority and force him into uncomfortable cohabitations to pass legislation. These cohabitations are unstable, and he will pay a price.
Neither is Mélenchon’s alliance necessarily stable since the left is always at war with itself. For France, none of this is a recipe for stability. The uncontested winner of the first round of voting in the National Assembly elections was abstention. Macron will be hoping he can persuade some of these voters to turn out next Sunday.
But at 53 per cent, this was a record high abstention for the fifth republic, up 2 per cent since 2017 and 10 per cent since 2012. A second-round duel between Macron’s Ensemble coalition and the Nupes alliance of Jean-Luc Mélenchon now looms. But still, that a majority of voters refuse to participate is perhaps the least happy sign of all for French democracy.
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