French Elections: Seconds Out — Round Three
As the spring arrived in France, Emanuel Macron saw off Marine Le Pen in the Presidential elections to become the first French president in over twenty years to win a second term.
But, like the new Prime Minister Albanese’s win in the Australian General Election, it was a close call.
Both victories were somewhat underwhelming, and Macron will be biting his nails as he faces Sunday’s final round to decide who’ll sit on the 577 seats in the National Assembly.
Political winds of change
In Australia, polls started to show that the women’s vote was turning against the incumbent PM Scott Morrison. His days were numbered and a green, centrist alliance of mainly female independents helped get Anthony Albanese across the line and into the Lodge.
A wind of change has started blowing in Canberra, and this newly aligned political group is sure to push the new Labour government for a more aggressive carbon emission target. So we’re unlikely to see any more right-wing politicians taking lumps of coal into parliament to make a political point. President Macron recently branded Morrison a liar over reneging on a submarine contract with France.
The French leader wasn’t the only one to suggest that Morrison was economical with the truth. He was called untrustworthy and a bully by members of his own party. But he seemed surprised. “It comes with the job,” was his response as he brushed aside allegations from one of his own senators that he’s “ruthless” and “lacking a moral compass”.
French Elections: the National Assembly
In France, the first of two weekends of voting for the National Assembly has signalled little cheer for the President as he faces the final battle on Sunday. Many young citizens and the disadvantaged feel isolated, neglected, remote and even rejected from politics. They are angry, and they’ve turned against the system. They see Macron as the President of the rich who they believe all live together in an affluent part of l’Hexagone, that’s unknown to them.
Last month was the hottest May on record in France. But the obscene war in Ukraine, the post covid drag on the economy, the explosion of fuel prices, and the soaring cost of living all overshadowed the critical issue of climate change. A lot will be demanded of the French electorate to refocus on saving the planet. Macron’s challenge will be to convince people that sacrifices will have to be made. But more importantly, he will have to demonstrate to everyone that this includes the wealthy.
Meanwhile, Mélenchon has grabbed the initiative. He hopes to tap into the hunger for social, political, and environmental reform, as well as the popular frustration with the nation’s established elites. If he pulls it off, he’s promised a more democratic and pluralist regime — some say he means a complete overhaul of France’s institutions.
Last Sunday, Mélenchon’s NUPES tied with Macron’s coalition in a record-low turnout. Such an open-ended result makes voting critical.
Mélenchon’s goal is to win a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly which would force Macron into appointing members of the opposition NUPES coalition as government ministers — a highly unusual scenario for the Fifth Republic.
Is cohabitation still possible in France?
Most experts say the French political wild card of cohabitation seems unlikely. But it does remain a possibility. This power-sharing scenario occurs when France’s president and prime minister are from different sides of the political fence which would make it much harder for Macron’s group to
pass laws unilaterally.
President Macron must now be hoping that the voters will give him not just another term tomorrow, but another chance. There is no doubt that he has made some dramatic changes to the French political landscape in a remarkably short time. But as he contemplates five more years in office, he should remember that time and tide wait for no man. He still has some herculean tasks ahead. Especially if he wants to unite his country and embrace the French ideals of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.
What’s your view? Do you agree with Ray? Please share in the comments section below.
1. Macron Portrait by Ray Johnstone
2. & 3. France 24 French Elections – a 2022 election mini-series
1. Europe holds its breath: the future of France
2. Two cheers for President Macron
3. French Elections: Seconds Out — Round Three (this one)
Interesting that low voter turnout is an issue – the advantage of compulsory voting in Oz. Though having to turn out 4 times (twice for president and now twice for legislature)…. I can understand how it might get a bit tedious! Maybe democracy sausages would help?
Ray this may end up being the most challenging part of Macrons life. His proving ground. Great article. Thanks