Susanne Mundschenk

Where does Macron go from here?

Voters want to punish him at the National Assembly vote

Where does Macron go from here?
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The French do not want Emmanuel Macron's party to win in the National Assembly, at least according to polls taken at the weekend. Expect revenge voting; Macron may lose his majority. How should he prepare for an eventual co-habitation of government and with whom?

Macron promised in Marseille that his prime minister will be charged with implementing an ecological master plan, as proposed by Mélenchon. Does this mean a prime minister from the left? What if there is a better partner on the right around? After all, Macron has nothing to lose, since this is his last term as president, limited as he is by a two-term cap. But preparing for the after-Macron era will be part of his considerations. It will also depend on what will now happen on the left and the right. Will parties fragment or unite? There is a strong pull to extremes, where a majority voted far-left and far-right in the first round. To reign from the centre will be quite a challenge. Never in living memory has the country been so divided.

For Les Républicains it will be an existential question. Should the party seek to join a Macron majority, or stay put to defy the extremism on both ends of the political spectrum that has been growing under Macron’s watch? There will be some bleeding from the party for sure. About 53 per cent of those who voted for Valérie Pécresse backed Macron, with 18 per cent backing Marine Le Pen. Around 20 MPs could reportedly jump ship and join Macron’s party soon. There are other centre-right parties, such as Edouard Philippe’s Horizons, and there are now two parties on the far right. Will Les Républicains collapse like the Socialists did in 2017 (who went from 331 seats to just 45)? This is what is at stake in the weeks to come.

Then there is the far-right. About 13 million people, 42 per cent of French voters, supported Marine Le Pen. What is her future? She and her team had focussed on nothing but winning the second round, so this is now a time to regroup and think ahead. One of the looming big questions is whether or not Le Pen will continue to run the party for another presidential election or whether she is ready to pass the baton on to someone else. This is linked to the more immediate question of whether to build an alliance with Éric Zemmour for the legislative elections. The far-right electorate is significant. Macron cannot ignore this constituency. He already adapted his discourse, promising that more will be done for domestic security. How far will he go to appeal to the far-right voter?

Then there is the left. Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the third man in this presidential race, eclipsing the Socialist and Green candidates in the first round. Can he win the elections in June? This is far from clear. It would require an unprecedented mobilisation and an alliance of the left. There is some pressure from the base. The Socialists and Greens may have refused to present a united candidate, but their voters catapulted Mélenchon into third place. This signals the emergence of a left bloc, whose supporters are less anchored to their party than they are committed to a victory of the left. This could become a mobilising force for the June elections. The Greens are already negotiating with Mélenchon’s party, La France Insoumise. The Socialists have greater internal resistance to overcome for such an alliance, as they have more to lose at the municipal and departmental level. This is where the two traditional parties still hold a lot of power. The question for Macron is whether they can regain much of what he took from them at the national level.

This article was first published in the EuroIntelligence morning briefing. For a trial subscription click here.