Neither Macron Nor Le Pen May Win Legislative Majority

The next French president could have a hard time governing without a majority in the National Assembly.

The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007
The sun sets on the Bourbon Palace, seat of the French National Assembly, in Paris, June 8, 2007 (jrrosenberg)

Neither of the two frontrunners in the French presidential election is likely to win a majority in the National Assembly, which would make it hard for them to govern.

The centrist Emmanuel Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen are neck and neck in the polls for the first voting round this month. Macron is expected to prevail in the second round.

A former economy minister under François Hollande, Macron left the Socialist Party last year to start his own movement.

Le Pen leads the anti-EU and anti-immigrant National Front, which currently has just two out 577 seats in the French parliament.

Unusual

It is not unusual for a president’s party to lack a majority in France, but it is unusual for either of the two major parties to fall short of absolute control.

Nor has there yet been a president in the history of the Fifth Republic from outside the two major parties.

Both could now happen, as a result of which a Macron or Le Pen presidency would require far more dealmaking than French politicians are used to.

Le Pen

If Le Pen wins the election, the mainstream parties could follow the example of Republicans in the United States. Once they were in the majority, they blocked every Democratic policy proposal for the remainder of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The nationalist party leader could conceivably do a deal with the left to reverse liberal economic reforms enacted by Macron and with the right to tighten immigration laws and nationalization requirements.

But that would require either side to set aside their reservations about collaborating with a woman they have demonized for years.

Macron

Macron would rouse less opposition but could still be hamstrung by reactionary forces in both camps.

The Socialist left so opposed his reforms — which allowed small companies to opt out of collective bargaining agreements and liberalized shopping hours — that Hollande was forced to enact them by decree. These lawmakers are not going to come around, especially when they worry more about losing reelection to the far left than to the right.

Center-left Socialists who supported Macron’s reforms are in the minority and they are most at risk of losing their seats to Republicans.

Centrist Republicans could support a program of economic liberalization. It is what their own candidate, François Fillon, is running on. But conservatives in the party worry that Macron’s globalism could cause their voters to switch to the National Front.

Two-round system

France’s two-round voting system makes it difficult for third parties to break through.

The National Front has yet another problem: Whenever it qualifies for a runoff, left- and right-wing voters tend to team up to keep Le Pen’s party out of power.

Macron is in the process of organizing candidates, but he may not manage in time for the elections in June.

The most recent survey was conducted by Opinion Way last year. It showed the combined left winning between 188 and 208 seats; the right between 266 and 292; and the National Front between 58 and 64.

289 seats are needed for a majority.

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