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Headache for Emmanuel Macron as support for the French left surges

As the parliamentary elections loom, 64 per cent of voters say they want to see the president forced into a cohabitation.

By Ido Vock

French voters will go to the polls on Sunday 12 June for the first round of parliamentary elections, which will almost certainly confirm the long-term political realignment that began with Emmanuel Macron’s first election as president five years ago.

The three political blocs I identified after the first round of April’s presidential election – Macron’s liberal internationalists, Eric Zemmour’s far-right nationalists and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing radicals – are each polling between 20 and 30 per cent.

Macron’s alliance, “Ensemble” (Together), is the favourite to win. It is jostling for first place in the polls with the “Nupes”, an alliance of left-wing parties led by Mélenchon. But even if the left gains the most votes, its declared goal of winning a parliamentary majority of 289 seats and forcing Macron into a cohabitation with Mélenchon as prime minister is unrealistic: the majoritarian two-round system favours candidates perceived as moderate.

Mélenchon – with his agenda of higher taxes on the rich and a history of pro-Russia positions – scares voters to the right of Macron enough that many will likely swing round to Ensemble candidates in Nupes-Ensemble run-off rounds in their constituencies. Even so, a recent Elabe projection has the Nupes heading for between 155 and 180 deputies, which would be the largest left bloc since 2012. Mélenchon’s party gained only 17 seats in the last election.

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The conservative Republicans, once the dominant force on the centre right, are likely to hold only a rump parliamentary party of around 40 to 65 MPs, down from about 110 at the last election. The Socialists, whose presidential candidate Anne Hidalgo received a mere 1.75 per cent of the votes in the first round, will hold a few seats thanks to its accepting of the role as junior partner in Mélenchon’s alliance.

The nationalist right, represented by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and Eric Zemmour’s Reconquest, collectively polls about as well as Ensemble and the Nupes. The far-right will, however, be heavily disadvantaged by having failed to agree an electoral pact and a non-proportional voting system. Elabe estimates that National Rally will gain 35 to 65 MPs, a sizeable improvement on its previous eight won in 2017 but nowhere near enough to meaningfully influence parliamentary business.

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Sixty-three per cent of voters say they want to see Macron forced into a cohabitation, though they disagree on who should lead such a government. An OpinionWay poll shows those who want Macron defeated in the legislative elections are equally split between wanting Le Pen and Mélenchon as prime minister. Though voters want Macron hobbled, the roughly 60 per cent of voters for the two other main blocs are divided on whether he should be tugged right or left. That may ultimately prove the president’s saving grace.

[See also: For France’s ethnic minorities, police brutality is all too familiar]

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