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Macron’s centrist party could lose majority in parliament

French President Emmanuel Macron suffered a big electoral setback after his centrist coalition underperformed in the first round of legislative elections. Macron now faces the possibility of losing his majority in parliament.

(CN) — French President Emmanuel Macron's second term in the Elysee is off to a rough start with his centrist coalition at risk of losing the majority in the National Assembly after the strong showing of a new left-wing coalition in the first round of legislative elections on Sunday.

Macron's Together coalition came out neck and neck with the alliance led by far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who's hoping to curtail Macron's pro-business policies and become prime minister.

Macron won reelection in late April by defeating Marine Le Pen, France's leader of the far right. On Sunday, Le Pen's National Rally party came in third and picked up slightly more votes than in the last National Assembly elections in 2017.

According to a tally by Le Monde, the French newspaper, the left-wing coalition of Socialists, Greens, Communists and Melenchon's France Unbowed party actually came out slightly ahead with 26.1% of the vote to the 25.8% obtained by Together.

National Rally won about 18.7% of the vote and the center-right Republicans just over 11%. Sunday's elections were a disaster for far-right pundit and firebrand Eric Zemmour's Reconquest party, which picked up just over 4%. Zemmour was knocked out too after he came in third in his own district.

A second round of voting will take place next Sunday, June 19, featuring runoff races.

In the second round, IPSOS France, a pollster, expects Together to pick up between 255 and 295 seats in the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful chamber of parliament. To obtain an absolute majority, a party must win 289 of the 577 seats in the assembly.

Macron's party, the Republic on the Move, won 308 seats in the 2017 National Assembly elections. In November 2021, his party joined other liberal parties to form the Together coalition with the goal of retaining a majority after this year's legislative elections.

The left-wing alliance – the New Ecologic and Social People's Union, better known by its French acronym NUPES – is projected to win between 150 and 210 seats after the second round. Such a tally for NUPES would make it the biggest opposition force in parliament, but leave Melenchon unlikely to get chosen as prime minister.

The Socialists decided to join in a coalition with other left-wing groups following a disastrous showing in the April presidential race when their candidate, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, picked up only 1.7% of the vote, by far the worst result ever for the Socialists. The once-powerful Socialists are at risk of becoming irrelevant. Only 10 years ago, the Socialists were in power under former President Francois Hollande, but the party has cratered since then.

Many French voters chose to sit out the election – a sign of growing disillusionment with the country's political direction and choices. Sunday saw a record 52.49% abstention rate, 2% higher than in 2017. In 2012, 42.78% of voters abstained.

“I think it represents a real disappointment for Emmanuel Macron,” said Andrew Smith, a French politics expert at the University of Chichester, speaking on France 24 television.

He said Macron's government likely will find it harder to get legislation passed in the next National Assembly, especially if Together is unable to win a majority and faces left-wing opposition.

Macron has said he wants to raise the age of retirement and carry out other pro-business policies, actions opposed by Melenchon. Macron's first term was marked by large-scale and often violent demonstrations by the so-called “yellow vest” protesters who partially derailed his call for deep neoliberal reforms.

To pursue his plans, Macron may end up relying on the votes of the center-right Republicans, Smith said.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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