France in political gridlock: what happens now?

No party has enough seats to win an absolute majority – and coalitions appear challenging

Leaders of the Nouveau Front Populaire and, inset, the french parliamentary election results
The Nouveau Front Populaire is likely the biggest single party in France’s parliament following the election, pending confirmation on Monday (July 8)
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Polls from the second round of the legislative elections suggest that no one party will be able to form an absolute majority in the Assemblée nationale, France’s lower political chamber. 

The left-wing alliance of the Nouveau Front Populaire is presently shown as having won the most seats, between 175 - 192, with president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition winning between 150 and 170. 

The far-right Rassemblement National and its allies are predicted to finish third with between 132 and 152 seats, far less than earlier predictions.

Read more: Breaking: Left come through to win French election in first results

The results mean that the chamber will be split into three distinct political camps, all short of an absolute majority, but all unlikely  to be willing to work with each other to form a coalition government.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left stalwart, said that “no coalition was possible” between any of the parties.

He said the Nouveau Front Populaire has been given the mandate to form a government by having the most seats, and will “adopt its programme and nothing but its programme” during the coming years. 

Other politicians from the alliance, including leader of the Greens Marine Tondelier, said “the party is going to govern,” in the wake of the elections. 

What happens now?

With no single party winning an overall majority, the president will approach the largest party to appoint a prime minister from its ranks, as he is required to do by the constitution.

As results stand, this will be a member of the Nouveau Front Populaire, although the group has not yet stated who it would propose as prime minister. 

Previously members have said it will be up to MPs from the party to vote who they want the role to be given to.

With the party not projected to win enough seats to gain an absolute majority (289 of 577), they would find it difficult to pass laws with political opponents from both the centre and far-right blocking them unless it formed a coalition to give an absolute majority of MPs. 

Many centrist politicians from President Macron’s camp have ruled out an alliance with the group to create a governing majority, saying that the inclusion of La France Insoumise, a far-left party in the bloc, is a red line to working with them.

If the party refuses to accept the task of forming a minority government president Macron can ask other groups to form a coalition government. 

His second-placed party will have the chance to do this, however the chance of any groups forming a coalition government seems extremely unlikely. 

Will France enter political gridlock? 

Fears about the potential longevity of a Nouveau Front Populaire government have also been raised.

It is thought that the alliance is fractious, and it is unknown how long it would remain allied, already having disagreed on a number of topics during the legislative campaigns. 

In the case of a minority government, motions of no confidence may also be levied against the ruling party, that would require only 289 votes to pass and force the appointment of a new prime minister. 

It is possible both the centrists and far-right groups would work together to topple a prime minister from a minority left-wing government.

This gridlock may only be broken by the dissolution of the Assemblée nationale. President Macron can call such a new vote in one year’s time, or he can resign which would trigger presidential elections. 

If a stalemate is ongoing, parties may agree to work together on a case-by-case basis to pass the most important laws until new elections are held. 

Alternatively, they may agree to a temporary ‘technocratic government’ – similar to in Italy under Mario Draghi in 2021-2022 – with a mix of experts and civil servants heading key ministries alongside politicians until new elections are held.