French prime minister to resign: who will replace him?

Gabriel Attal will remain as caretaker after president Macron rejected his resignation. We look at three possible scenarios after shock election results

The former PM will remain in power whilst France hosts the Olympic Games to ensure a smooth running of the event... but it is unsure who will replace him
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Political instability is on the cards for France, after last night’s surprising results saw the left-wing alliance Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) become the largest party in France - and the prime minister announce his resignation.

Gabriel Attal handed in his resignation to the president this morning (July 8), saying his position was untenable.

“This evening, the political party that I represented in this campaign, even though it achieved a score three times higher than had been predicted in recent weeks, does not have a majority,” he said after Sunday’s results.

However, president Macron rejected Mr Attal's resignation, asking him to "remain in the role for the moment... to ensure the stability of the country."

Mr Attal will likely remain in the role as a caretaker to ensure the smooth running of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, and until a new prime minister has been chosen.

However, the make-up of last night’s results means the choice of the next prime minister – and the make-up of France’s next government – is unknown. 

The left-wing group that won the election are well short of an absolute majority (requiring 289 seats) in the Assemblée nationale, winning 180 seats.

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

There are a number of possible scenarios following these results - we review three below. 

Left-wing prime minister, minority government, partial coalition

Winning the largest number of seats means the left-wing alliance has the right to choose a prime minister from among their ranks. 

Unlike the other parties, there is no clear candidate for the role in the NFP, which sent a number of different candidates from parties making up the alliance to attend the televised debates throughout June and July. 

Previously, politicians from the group have said a prime minister will be appointed from their ranks based on an internal vote by MPs.

Head of the Socialist Party – the second-largest party in the alliance – Olivier Faure told  FranceInfo this morning “a completely different method” was required to pick the candidate.

The group must present a candidate for prime minister within the next week, he said.

The alliance however has made it clear they intend to rule, and that they have a ‘mandate’ after gaining the most seats in last night’s election. 

Senator for the Green party (which are also in the alliance) Yannick Jadot said the group were already preparing a cabinet and “will propose a new government this week.” 

Far-left stalwart and member of the group Jean-Luc Mélenchon said the party “will adopt its programme, and nothing but its programme” after last night’s victory. However with the lack of majority it seems a compromise will be required. 

If the group chooses to rule as a minority government (with less than 289 seats backing them in the political chamber), it will always be at risk of a motion of no confidence, forcing its chosen prime minister to resign and an inability to pass laws. 

It is more likely then that the group will choose to form a broader coalition with certain members of the centrist party, who together would be able to form a majority. 

This would result in some concessions from both sides, with the NFP having to drop some of their more radical policies and appoint centrist MPs to government roles. 

Many leading centrist politicians have already ruled out working with La France Insoumise which makes up the largest block of MPs from the left-wing alliance, meaning finding the extra seats to create a majority may be difficult. 

Read more: France in political gridlock: what happens now?

Left-wing implosion, broad centrist coalition 

This would be the precursor to the second potential outcome, which sees the NFP alliance fall apart and the parties now within it sitting separately.

The alliance was formed as a broad anti far-right coalition in the wake of the announcement of the legislative elections, surprising many political commentators who believed the groups would be unable to agree on a manifesto in such a short period of time.

Although the various groups agreed on policy points, there have already been disagreements and tension between the camps, which range from centre-left groups to extreme-left candidates. 

A previous coalition between many of the same parties during the 2022 elections (the Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale, or NUPES) fell to infighting. 

If MPs from Macron’s group are unwilling to work with the far-left components of the NFP, then parties that are more centre-left may be willing to breakaway and form a coalition independently. 

Various combinations of the presidential group, the Socialist and Green parties, and willing members of the right-wing Les Républicains, who finished with 66 seats, may be able to reach an absolute majority, and rule as an ‘anti-extremist’ coalition, despite differing ideologies on a number of points. 

This would also make President Macron’s party the largest group of the coalition, allowing him to appoint a prime minister from his own ranks. 

However it is difficult to see how much common ground the Socialist party and Les Républicains have, especially when there is no fear of the alternative being a far-right government.

No clear government, political gridlock, new elections

One other coalition could create an absolute majority – an alliance between the centrists of Macron’s camp and the far-right Rassemblement National

However after spending weeks telling people to not vote for the far-right, and engaging in tactical voting to prevent them winning yesterday, it seems all but impossible that the centrists would work with the RN. 

If all else fails, and no group or coalition can gain a majority, President Macron may implore the leaders of each group to work together to keep France afloat until new elections can take place. 

This would see the bare minimum of laws – such as annual budgets – passed to keep the country running, although it is unlikely that any one group could impose any points from their manifestos. 

It may also see the appointment of non-MPs to leading roles, to create an impartial ‘technocratic government’ to rule temporarily. 

The president can call new legislative elections in one year’s time, but until then is restrained by the current make-up of the chamber. 

A final option is for Mr Macron to resign and trigger presidential elections, which would return a new president who may be able to work better with a minority group or coalition making it potentially easier to pass laws. 

However the president previously stated that he will not resign, and may feel buoyed by the unexpectedly strong results of his candidates in the legislative elections. 

Read more: Macron: why I called snap French election and won’t resign if we lose