President Emmanuel Macron was faced Monday with trying to salvage a ruling majority and with it his economic reform agenda after voters punished his centrist alliance Together in French legislative elections.
While Ensemble secured the largest number of lawmakers in the National Assembly of 577 seats, it fell comfortably short of the required threshold for an outright majority in a vote that saw a left-wing alliance and the far straight perform strongly.
The vote was a painful setback for Macron, 44, who won re-election in April and wants to deepen European Union integration, raise the retirement age and breathe new life into France’s nuclear industry.
There is no set scenario in France for how things will play out.
Macron’s options include forming a ruling coalition or chairing a minority government that must enter into negotiations with opponents on a bill basis. The alternative if no deal can be reached is for the eurozone’s second-largest economy to be plunged into paralysis.
“We will work from tomorrow to form a majority of action (…) to guarantee the stability of our country and carry out the necessary reforms,” said Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne as the results filtered in on Sunday evening.
Macron in April became the first French president in two decades to win a second term as voters rallied to keep the far right out of power.
But, seen as out of touch by many voters, he presides over a deeply disenchanted and divided country where support for populist parties on the right and left has surged.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party won its biggest representation in the lower house while a resurgent left-wing bloc, Nupes, led by far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, will form the biggest force of opposition.
“The rout of the presidential party is complete,” Melenchon told supporters.
Even so, his own unlikely alliance may now find staying together more difficult than winning votes.
After a first presidential term marked by a style of government from the top that Macron himself compared to that of Jupiter, the all-powerful Roman god, the president will now have to learn the art of consensus.
“This culture of compromise is the one we will have to adopt, but we must do it around clear values, ideas and political projects for France,” said Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.