The French electorate went to the polls yesterday (June 12) in the first round of this year’s legislative elections to elect its new MPs.
Candidates standing to be elected to the 577 seats in France’s Assemblée nationale raced to reach the second round next Sunday (June 19), when the final results will emerge.
During this first round, the left-wing Nupes coalition of parties affiliated to La France Insoumise’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon came out neck and neck with President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble coalition.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right party Rassemblement National and the right-wing Les Républicains, meanwhile, lagged behind. Éric Zemmour was knocked out.
We look at key points from the vote.
1. Macron’s majority appears to weaken
Candidates affiliated with President Macron in the Ensemble coalition of parties – including La République en Marche, Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem) and Horizons – performed significantly lower than Mr Macron’s party in the 2017 legislative elections.
It gained 25.75% of first round votes, according to the official interior ministry count, only just ahead of Nupes, which had 25.66%. Rassemblement National was third with 18.68%.
Following yesterday’s vote, a prediction from BFMTV-RMC and L’Express suggests that Mr Macron will have 260-295 MPs in the Assemblée nationale following the second round next Sunday.
This is compared to 350 for La République en Marche and its ally MoDem in 2017.
2. Ex-ministers eliminated from the race
Several former government ministers failed to make it through to the second round during the first ballot of the legislative elections yesterday.
Jean-Michel Blanquer, who served as Education Minister during President Macron’s first term in office, came third in his Loiret constituency, with 18.89% of the vote.
Rassemblement National candidate Thomas Ménagé came first, with 31.45% of the vote, and Bruno Nottin of Nupes came second (19.43%).
Emmanuelle Wargon, the ex-housing minister, was also knocked out in her Val-de-Marne constituency, where she came third (18.93% of the vote), behind Les Républicains’ Michel Herbillon and Nupes’ Erik Pagès.
Elsewhere, ex-Ecological Transition minister Barbara Pompili did qualify for the second round in Somme, but neck and neck with Nupes candidate Zahia Hamdane. While the former gained 29.84% of the vote, the latter was just in front with 29.98%.
No sitting minister was knocked out in the first round, but there were two who came behind Nupes candidates: Ecological Transition Minister Amélie de Montchalin and European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne won the first round comfortably, 10 points ahead of the Nupes candidate in her Calvados constituency. Other ministers who fared well include Damien Abad, who leads a new ministry of ‘Solidarities, Autonomy and the Disabled.’ He is currently facing rape allegations.
3. Zemmour in third place in Var
Éric Zemmour (Reconquête) was knocked out of the running in yesterday’s vote, coming third (23.19% of the vote) behind La République en Marche’s Sereine Mauborgne (28.51%) and Rassemblement National’s Philippe Lottiaux (24.74%).
No Reconquête candidate made it through to the second round.
4. Marine Le Pen well-placed for reelection
Marine Le Pen secured 53.96% of the vote in her Pas-de-Calais constituency, which would have been enough to see her reelected outright, were it not for the low turnout (42.6%).
To be elected in the first round, a candidate must have an absolute majority and represent more than 25% of the constituency’s electorate.
Only four Nupes candidates and one Macron-affiliated candidate managed to win the first round outright.
In the second round, Ms Le Pen will face Marine Tondelier of Nupes, who gained 23.43% of the vote yesterday.
In general, Rassemblement National is expected to return a better result than in 2017, when it gained eight seats in the Assemblée Nationale, seven short of the 15 needed to form a parliamentary group and establish real influence in Parliament.
An Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll now predicts that the party will win 20-45 seats this time round.
While Rassemblement National gains ground, Les Républicains look set to lose seats next Sunday.
5. A high abstention rate
Turnout was very low for yesterday’s vote, with 52.49% of registered voters failing to go to the polls.
Left-wing candidates are hoping to attract more voters next Sunday, believing that disenchanted members of the electorate would be more likely to opt for them than for President Macron’s representatives.
6. Nupes accuses interior ministry of ‘manipulation’ of overseas results
Nupes has questioned the way in which the votes of French people living overseas were counted, accusing the interior ministry of “manipulating” the results.
“Although Nupes gained 6,101,968 votes (26.8%), the interior ministry is only attributing 5,836,202 (25.7%) to it, to make it falsely seem like Macron’s parties came out on top. Hello, Conseil d’État?” tweeted Nupes candidate Manuel Bompard.
ALERTE À LA NOUVELLE MANIPULATION DE #DARMANIN— Manuel Bompard (@mbompard) June 13, 2022
Alors que la #NUPES réalise 6 101 968 voix (soit 26,8%), le ministère de l'intérieur ne lui attribue que 5 836 202 voix (soit 25,7%) pour faire apparaître artificiellement le parti de #Macron en tête.
Allo le Conseil d'Etat ?
It would seem that certain Nupes candidates were classed as being simply ‘from the left’ rather than belonging to the coalition, and so their votes were not added to Nupes’ total.
The interior ministry has said that “no overseas candidate” was included in the “list” sent to the government by Nupes on June 8, and that “these candidates did not feature on the official [Nupes] website either.
“However, three candidates initially affiliated to Nupes but who declared that they wanted to remove themselves from the party were counted as being ‘from the left’.”
7. What happens now?
The two candidates who made it through to the second round run-off next in each constituency will go head to head next Sunday.
Any candidate who also gained a vote total equal to 12.5% of the constituency’s electorate will also have qualified for the second round.
In this round, the candidate who received the most votes is elected, and will officially begin their term on June 28, after the end of this government on June 21.
President Macron needs at least 289 seats to gain a parliamentary majority, and poll results suggest that he may not achieve this. It is, however, very rare that candidates affiliated to the president do not succeed in forming a majority.
Nupes is expected to win between 150 and 190 seats, a result which would leave no party with overall control.
If another party coalition gained a majority in the Assemblée nationale, it would force President Macron into a ‘cohabitation’ situation, requiring him to appoint members of an opposition party as government ministers.
8. Could Mélenchon still become prime minister?
Mr Mélenchon’s Nupes coalition, which unites La France Insoumise, Le Parti socialiste, Europe Écologie - Les Verts and Le Parti communiste français, emerged from the first round well-placed.
If Nupes gained a parliamentary majority in the second round, President Macron may feel obliged to appoint Mr Mélenchon as prime minister, to reflect the biggest political coalition in government. It rests with the president to choose who is France’s prime minister, although previously this has often been the leader of the majority party if the president’s party has not gained a majority.
As mentioned above, Nupes will call on electors who did not turn out on Sunday to mobilise for the second round.
One group that the coalition will target will be younger voters; 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds opted for Nupes yesterday, and 38% of 25 to 34-year-olds. These age groups are, however, one of the most disillusioned, with a turnout of 31% and 29% respectively.
Encouraging them to go to the polls could, therefore, provide a significant boost for Mr Mélenchon’s candidates.
Following yesterday’s vote, Mr Mélenchon said: “I call on our people, in view of these results and the extraordinary opportunity with which they present us in our personal lives and for the destiny of our homeland, to surge out [to vote] next Sunday to definitively reject the dire projects of Mr Macron’s majority.”
However, in the second round Nupes candidates could find themselves up against a ‘front anti-Mélenchon’ (an anti-Mélenchon front).
Macron-affiliated candidates could encourage voters to block the left-wing coalition – in the same way as they did with Ms Le Pen in the presidential elections – by placing emphasis on claims that Mr Mélenchon is anti-European and pro-Putin.