French election results: No party secured a majority, so what’s next?

How will President Emmanuel Macron appoint a new prime minister, and how will a hung parliament work?

A loose alliance of leftist parties has won the most seats in French legislative elections after a second round of voting.

While the coalition has managed to keep France’s far-right away from power in the elections, which ended on Sunday, no single political party or alliance of parties has won a clear majority.

Here is what has happened and what could happen next:

Did the left win the French election?

Not exactly. To win an outright majority, a party or coalition needs to secure at least 289 of the National Assembly’s 577 seats.

Three alliances emerged on top after the vote count, but all of them fell short of a majority.

  • New Popular Front (NFP), a broad alliance of leftist and environmental parties, won the largest number of seats – 188.
  • Ensemble, the centrist coalition led by French President Emmanuel Macron, came second with 161 seats.
  • National Rally (RN) and its allies, led by far-right leader Marine Le Pen, won 142 seats.
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(Al Jazeera)

How will France form a government?

Since none of the three blocs has won an outright majority, France now has a hung parliament, and a coalition government will need to be formed between alliances or political parties.

Experts predicted that Macron’s Ensemble alliance of centrist parties will try to form a coalition with the Socialists and the Greens, the more moderate parties within the left-wing alliance, New Popular Front (NFP), rather than attempt any tie-up with Jean-Luc Melenchon’s far-left France Unbowed party.

The president has said he will not join forces with France Unbowed, which at times during the election campaign he portrayed as being as dangerous as the far right.

The primary bone of contention between the left bloc and Macron is his pensions reform. In 2023, Macron raised the state pension age from 62 to 64. “The left vehemently opposed it. They might make this a condition to join the coalition, which Macron will refuse,” said Rainbow Murray, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London and a specialist in French politics.

Alternatively, centrists could form a minority government by uniting moderates from the left and right and operate on compromise, Murray told Al Jazeera.

How will a prime minister be chosen?

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal of Macron’s Renaissance party announced that he would step down. “Being prime minister was the honour of my life. This evening, the political group that I represent no longer has a majority, and tomorrow morning, I will submit my resignation to the president,” he said after the results became clear.

Attal will stay on in a caretaker role for a while because of the Paris Olympics, which kick off later this month.

The prime minister is appointed by the president. There is no particular timeline for Macron to appoint a new premier. “We might not see the nomination of a PM for a few days or a few weeks,” historian-turned-journalist Diane Vignemont, who is based in Paris, told Al Jazeera.

Macron is not obliged to appoint a prime minister from the party with the largest number of seats in parliament. He may technically appoint anyone he likes from any of the parties.

However, to forge a workable coalition government, Macron will most likely need to appoint a prime minister from the NFP, which won the most seats.

Melenchon has already called for the president to do this. “The will of the people must be strictly respected,” he said. “No ‘arrangement’ would be acceptable. The defeat of the president and his coalition is clearly confirmed. The president must accept his defeat.”

No leader has been put forward as a potential prime minister by the left bloc yet.

Melenchon is one option, but he is likely to be unpopular among more moderate voters. Other options include former journalist and filmmaker Francois Ruffin, who is affiliated with France Unbowed; the Socialist Party’s Boris Vallaud; or the nonpartisan Laurent Berger.

Has the French Parliament been hung before?

Yes, but not like this.

In the 2022 elections, Macron’s party won 245 seats. However, his government received tacit support from the conservative Republican party, Murray explained.

In modern times, France has never seen a parliament with no dominant party, but it has had periods – 1986-1988, 1993-1995 and 1997-2002 – when the president and the prime minister were from opposing parties.

In these instances, however, the prime ministers also commanded healthy majorities in the National Assembly. The situation as it stands now is unprecedented.

Can deadlock over key issues be avoided?

Article 49.3 of the constitution was introduced as a workaround to political deadlock.

The third paragraph of Article 49 allows the government to pass a bill immediately without a vote in the National Assembly. It is the prime minister who holds this particular power.

Macron invoked 49.3 (via his prime minister) once during his first term (2017-2022) and 11 times since the start of his second term. The last time 49.3 was invoked was to push through one of Macron’s flagship policies, pension reform, in March 2023.

If parliament disagrees with the bill, legislators may table a vote of no confidence within 24 hours, which needs 289 votes to pass.

Therefore, it can make sense to invoke 49.3, but only “if there isn’t a majority against the government”, Murray said. This would not be the case for either Macron or whoever becomes prime minister going forward.

“We’re more likely to see a very limited uncontroversial policy agenda to keep things going for as long as possible,” Murray said.

Will Macron remain in office?

  • Macron’s presidential term ends in 2027, and he does not intend to step down before that, he said in a statement on June 12.
  • The constitution grants Macron power over foreign policy and the armed forces. The success of the leftist alliance in this election potentially means the weakening of Macron.
  • Some experts are now speculating that Macron could take Sunday’s election results as a vote of no confidence, could then resign and trigger a snap presidential election.
Source: Al Jazeera