Macron Goes All In



By calling early parliamentary elections, the French president has created a situation in the country close to a crisis.

Actually, he did not have to do that. There is no legal requirement to dissolve parliament if the ruling party did not show the best result in elections to international bodies. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally outperformed Macron’s Renaissance in the European Parliament elections, yes. But nothing has changed in the French National Assembly. Who cares who wins where? Not a single head of state questioned their positions, except for the Belgian Prime Minister who resigned, but he is the head of government.

Macron had a relative majority in parliament, and he took a risk with it. However, no one doubts that he won’t see an absolute majority with the current popularity of Marine and her team. So, by dissolving the parliament, Macron aimed to at least confirm his status quo and respond to the opposition’s challenges — implying that they and their party no longer represent the voters’ interests, and thus, traps will be set for them everywhere.

According to Article 8 of the French Constitution, the president appoints the prime minister at his discretion. But traditionally, Macron should appoint the head of the cabinet from the ranks of the winning parliamentary party. In this case, the center of gravity shifts towards the government, and Article 20 of the Constitution specifically states that “the government, not the president of the Republic, determines and conducts the nation’s policy».

The announced early elections were considered a possible option by political parties, but it seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Politicians started calculating what each bloc or alliance would yield. Macron himself chose the strategy «Me or chaos».

This strategy is to pit the far-right Rassemblement Nationale against the far-left Unsubmissive France, to remind the public how Le Pen Sr. was chased, and to show voters that only by uniting around the president and his center-right majority is it possible to keep extremists out of power. At first, he even recalled the “Popular Front” of 1936. Then, however, it was invented by left-wing parties against the threat of fascism penetrating France, and eventually even communists ended up in the government.

Socialists immediately picked up the idea (after all, this is their field) and created the «New Popular Front», uniting all shades of left and green.

What could be the outcomes of the second round on the evening of July 7?

First option — Macron’s dream. His party is joined by 4 more right-centrist ones, and they gain an absolute majority. But such a scenario wasn’t considered even in the 2022 elections. Still, in this case, Macron appoints a prime minister from his own, most likely extending Attal’s powers, and continues to push controversial reforms through parliament, such as the legalization of euthanasia or the merger of state audiovisual media. At the same time, he will give some ministerial posts to centrists and slow down the signing of some contentious laws in exchange.

Second option — the opposition wins. Either the National Rally or the New Popular Front gains an absolute majority. A period of «cohabitation» begins. This has happened three times in the Fifth Republic: twice with Mitterrand and once with Chirac. Most likely, if the National Rally wins, Macron will appoint Jordan Bardella, the formal leader of Le Pen’s party, as prime minister.

«The role of the president during ‘cohabitation’ is almost erased», explains Alexandre Flambéry-Lacobon, professor of political science at the University of Bordeaux. «It is more akin to the functions typical of parliamentary regimes».

That is, in principle, the president retains primarily defense and international relations under this arrangement. According to the Constitution, he «negotiates and ratifies treaties, may convene the Constitutional Council to discuss laws that have passed through parliament, appoints prefects and ambassadors, and conducts the Council of Ministers».

In practice, Macron will not be able to block laws and will have to seek compromise with the new prime minister. His only weapon would be to dissolve the National Assembly again, but the Constitution allows doing this only a year after the previous early elections. This is our case. So, until July 2025, Macron won’t be able to do anything.

Third option — no party gains a majority. Here, everyone starts looking for allies and forming groups. However, France’s parliamentary tradition is not rich in examples of large coalitions. Recall that the Macronists in the last elections couldn’t even attract 61 Republican deputies to their camp, although they were once party comrades.

In this scenario, by the way, Marine could invite the same Republicans to join her. But this would inevitably cause discord among the first. The same will happen if the New Popular Front starts luring Macron’s troops, leading to inevitable splits there as well.

In this case, the president appoints the prime minister based on the relative majority, as happened after the 2022 elections, leading to the emergence of Élisabeth Borne’s government.

There is a scenario where all parliamentarians unite against the National Rally after the elections, following the principle «ultras shall not pass». Even for this scenario, Macron campaigned «against all extremes».

«Macron has cornered himself», says political scientist Bruno Cortes from the Institute of Political Studies. «He attacked the far left and right, counting on the so-called ‘reasonable voters’ to follow him. He has already made it a habit to present himself as a bulwark — sometimes explaining that Europe is collapsing like in 1938, sometimes trying to be a peacemaker at the start of the conflict in Ukraine, but somehow this always leads to division».

Dissolving the parliament is undoubtedly a tough decision. But the French president decided to bet his relative majority in parliament and his government. Maybe such a move would have passed two years ago, but now he has, for example, an unpopular pension reform that has trapped millions of people, or a migration law that has not yet increased his popularity either. And it is now at 26 percent.