France: neck and neck in the race for parliamentary seats

After the first round of the parliamentary elections in France, President Emmanuel Macron's Ensemble alliance has only a razor-thin lead against Jean-Luc Mélenchon's left-wing Nupes alliance, having secured 25.75 percent of the vote versus 25.66. The second round of voting next Sunday will determine whether Macron wins an absolute majority of seats in parliament. How did the close result come about?

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Le Point (FR) /

An election without a victor

In actual fact none of the parties can be satisfied with their results, notes Le Point:

“The left continues to be very much a minority in the country. Compared to 2017, it has even lost 4.5 percent of the vote. ... Marine Le Pen seemed quite exhilarated on Sunday. ... But she can't ignore the fact that she has lost her status as France's strongest opposition politician. The conservatives have avoided clinical death. ... But their number of seats in the National Assembly will be between a third and a half lower than in 2017. Above all, however, no one can claim to be victorious or rejoice when abstention in the first round of the parliamentary elections in the Fifth Republic reaches record levels of over 52 percent.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

European centrism alone and weak

La Vanguardia believes that Mélenchon will play an important role even if he doesn't succeed in becoming prime minister:

“Mélenchon can be considered the moral winner of the first round. ... According to forecasts Mélenchon is unlikely to achieve his goal of becoming prime minister, but he will hinder Macron's legislative agenda, particularly the pension reform, and set himself up as the leader of the opposition. ... Mélenchon will put all kinds of obstacles in Macron's way, in the National Assembly and on the streets. And all this in a highly polarised country where the extremes continue to gain ground. ... And in the centre, alone and weak, remains the liberal European centrism which the French president represents.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Macron's team stigmatising all opponents

The president is content to simply lash out at his opponents, complains the Tages-Anzeiger:

“The majority of French people didn't even vote on Sunday. Among the under-35s, it was 70 percent. When Emmanuel Macron was elected president in 2017, he assured citizens that he would restore their trust in politics. Five years later we can say: France's democratic culture has not only not recovered under Macron, it has deteriorated. ... A large section of the ministers and advisors around Macron have switched to calling everything that takes place outside their own alliance 'extremism'.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

France needs a new culture of debate

The fact that mutual recriminations are dominating the campaign and preventing debate about the real issues is also down to Macron, says Der Tagesspiegel:

“Although it is true that the alliance of leftist parties and the right-wing extremists often turn to such rhetoric, the government should - and needs to - use its stronger position to set a different tone ... . One thing should contribute to preventing it from doing so: as in the US, the majority voting system results in a spiral of escalation. That is why Macron should address both issues, regardless of the outcome of the second round of the election next Sunday: a reform of the institutions - for example by introducing proportional representation in the parliamentary elections. And an attempt towards a new culture of debate.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Result reflects a social emergency

Le Soir suspects it knows why the Nupes left-wing alliance achieved a strong result:

“Mélenchon can be proud of himself. He has achieved a major victory. According to the first projections, his party alone will win around 100 seats in parliament. And even if it looks right now as if he and his Nupes alliance won't be able to impose cohabitation on Emmanuel Macron, he will probably have enough resources to obstruct the president in his work. This awakening of the left says something about the country: it is going through a social emergency. In a Europe worn down by inflation, ordinary French people don't want to be forgotten. This is a warning to Macron.”

La Croix (FR) /

Frustration over injustices

Macron's calculation that low voter turnout might work in his favour didn't pan out, comments La Croix:

“The French are not abstaining because they're not interested in politics. On the contrary. They're probably not voting because they're frustrated that not enough attention is being paid to injustices and because they feel that no one cares about their concerns. The hospital and education system crisis, the climate crisis: there's no shortage of areas where citizens expect concrete action. Nupes at least presented their political ideas, even if they might be considered unrealistic or dangerous. But Macron's strategy of numbing the election campaign and banking on his opponent's weaknesses clearly didn't fool anyone.”

La Stampa (IT) /

A weakened president

This will be a tough term for Macron, predicts La Stampa:

“Emmanuel Macron emerged weakened from the first round of the parliamentary elections. That is a fact, regardless of the number after the decimal point. ... Everything will be decided in seven days' time in the run-off, when each of the 577 constituencies elects just one candidate. The projections give the presidential alliance Ensemble a significant advantage, but Macron is unlikely to achieve an absolute majority. ... This is the first time that the president does not immediately receive an absolute majority in a parliamentary election following a presidential election. Five difficult years lie ahead for Macron.”


An ailing democracy

Stelios Kouloglou, Syriza columnist and MEP, comments on web portal TVXS:

“Ever fewer French people are interested in voting in elections. Abstention was at a record 52.8 percent (51.3 percent in 2017). Emmanuel Macron was elected five years ago on the promise of reviving democracy but has completely failed. He was elected for the second time in April as the lesser evil compared to Le Pen. And now he wants to win with the same tactics, demonising Mélenchon and mobilising the right, the far right and the fanatical 'extreme centre' against him. Even if he does succeed: the lesser evil for the second time is not the best start. Neither for French democracy nor for his term in office.”

Polityka (PL) /

Cold War-style anti-imperialism

Polityka sees the French left in competition with right-wing populists:

“Mélenchon is an anti-imperialist like those of the Cold War times. As an opponent of the capitalist US he spoke warmly of dictators like Hugo Chávez. ... Mélenchon also showed understanding for the interests of Russia, which he argued was justified in feeling threatened by Nato expansion. He has now distanced himself from such statements, however, and publicly condemns the war. He is currently one of the most popular politicians in France, which speaks volumes about the evolution of the left in times of national populism. In view of Marine Le Pen's triumphs, the left no longer wants to be centrist and balanced, like the socialists of the past.”