French President Emmanuel Macron was set to lose his parliamentary majority on Sunday after huge electoral gains by a newly formed left-wing alliance and the far right, in a stunning blow to his hopes of sweeping reforms in his second term.
The second election was decisive for Macron’s second-term agenda following his re-election in April, with the 44-year-old needing a majority to secure promised tax cuts and social reforms and raise the retirement age.
His “Together” coalition was on track to become the largest party in the next National Assembly, but with 200-260 seats well short of the 289 seats needed for a majority, according to a series of forecasts from five French polling agencies.
If confirmed, the results would seriously tarnish April’s presidential election victory, when he defeated the far right and became the first French president to win a second term in more than two decades.
The new left-wing coalition NUPES under 70-year-old far-left figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon was on track to win 149-200 seats.
The coalition, formed in May after the left suffered a debacle in the April presidential election, included socialists, the far-left, communists and greens.
The left only had 60 seats in the outgoing parliament, meaning they could triple their representation.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party was on track for huge gains after just eight seats in the outgoing parliament.
It is projected to send 60-102 MPs to the new parliament.
– Ministers in danger –
Failure to win the majority would force Macron into difficult partnerships with other parties on the right to pass legislation.
There could now be weeks of political deadlock as the president tries to reach out to new parties.
The most likely option would be an alliance with – or stripping MPs from – the Republicans (LR), the traditional party of the French right on track to win 40-80 seats.
The nightmare scenario for the president – the left wins a majority and Melenchon leads the government – seems to be out of the question.
It has been twenty years since France last had a multi-party president and prime minister, when right-wing Jacques Chirac had to work with a socialist-dominated parliament under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
The ruling party’s campaign was overshadowed by growing concerns over rising prices, while new Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne failed to exert any influence on the sometimes lackluster campaigns.
French television reports said Borne had gone to the Elysee to talk to Macron even before the projections were published.
The jobs of ministers who ran for office were also at stake under a convention that they had to resign if they failed to win seats.
On the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe – where the poll is being held a day earlier – Justine Benin was defeated on Saturday by NUPES candidate Christian Baptiste, a loss that jeopardizes her role in government as Secretary of State for the Sea.
On the mainland, France’s European Minister Clement Beaune and Environment Minister Amelie de Montchalin face tough challenges in their constituencies, with both likely to leave government if defeated.
– Bitter Exchanges –
The battle between Together and NUPES has become increasingly bitter over the past week, with Macron’s allies trying to portray their main adversaries as dangerous far-leftists.
Senior MP Christophe Castaner has accused Melenchon of wanting a “Soviet revolution”, while Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has called him a “French (Hugo) Chavez”, after the late Venezuelan autocrat.
Macron went to Ukraine last week, hoping to remind voters of his foreign policy credentials and one of Melenchon’s alleged weaknesses: his anti-NATO and anti-EU views at a time of war in Europe.
Before embarking on the trip, Macron had called on voters to give his coalition a “solid majority”, adding that “nothing would be worse than adding French disorder to world disorder”.
Melenchon has promised a break with “30 years of neoliberalism” – meaning free market capitalism – and has pledged to raise minimum wages and government spending, as well as nationalizations.
Turnout, considered crucial to the vote, was 38.11 percent with three hours to go, down from 39.42 percent recorded at the same stage in the first round on June 12. , although a 35.33 percent increase was recorded in 2017, the Interior Ministry reported.
Meanwhile, polls predicted the abstinence rate would be between 53.5 percent and 54 percent, higher than the 52.5 percent recorded in the first round.
The first-round vote served to narrow candidates in most of the country’s 577 constituencies to finalists to face each other on Sunday.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)