PARIS (Reuters) – For re-elected Emmanuel Macron, focus is quickly shifting to legislative elections in June when, the readout from Sunday’s runoff win suggests, he may struggle to gain the clear legislative majority that French voters tend to bestow on their presidents.
Whether he does or doesn’t, the outcome of that two-round ballot will shape his second mandate. Here is an explainer on how France’s political landscape might shift.
WHICH WAY WILL MACRON LEAN THIS TIME?
By inclination a centrist, Macron tacked to the right during his first term in office.
He then made overtures to the left in the run-up to the re-election vote to help push his bid over the line – a strategy of expediency that left him quick to acknowledge on Sunday that many had probably voted for him not out of conviction but to keep the far right from power.
How Macron positions himself next will depend on whether he wins a majority in June, will need to build a coalition or is forced to usher in a period of what is known as cohabitation by picking a prime minister from the opposition.
Under cohabitation, political relations within the executive are often tense. The president’s powers are severely curbed, retaining the lead on foreign policy influence but ceding responsibility for most day-to-day policy matters to the government.
‘THIRD ROUND’ OF ONE ELECTION CYCLE
Since France aligned its presidential and parliamentary terms in 2002, voters have consistently handed a majority to the elected president.
Another reason to think things might be less clear-cut this time is that more than half the votes cast in the presidential election’s first round were for candidates from the far right and hard left.
The parliamentary ballots offer those same voters the chance to keep Macron in check.
The hard-left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who obtained 7.7 million votes in the first round and whose voters were instrumental in securing Macron’s eventual win, has already dubbed the June polls the “third round” of the election cycle.
Macron’s La Republique en Marche party has meanwhile struggled to anchor itself at a grassroot level and levels of public dissatisfaction with the president remain high.
But if Macron may need to form a coalition of allies to maintain his hold on power, in a fragmented political landscape the same would be true of his main rivals.
MELENCHON FOR PRIME MINISTER?
After polling third in round one, Melenchon pitched himself to left-wing voters as France’s next prime minister, and his La France Insoumise party (France Unbowed) is pressing for an unprecedented left-wing alliance with the Parti Communiste, the Greens and the centre-left Parti Socialiste.
Negotiations are under way with the Greens. However, there is resistance from some within the Socialists’ fractured ranks, where some argue they would stand to lose more at municipal and departmental level if Melenchon were to be anointed as the left’s flag-bearer.
On the right, the tectonic plates are shifting too.
Le Pen was defiant in defeat and said she would continue her political fight.
But she will be challenged for the title of far-right torch bearer by the duo of writer-turned-nationalist presidential challenger Eric Zemmour and her niece, Marion Marechal, who defected from her aunt’s camp weeks before the vote.
Zemmour wants a “national union” of anti-Macron, nationalist forces emerging in time for June. But Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party president, Jordan Bardella, appeared to close the door on the idea and Zemmour’s leverage may be limited after his lower-than-expected first round score.
Then there is the centre-right. The Les Republicians party’s survival is at stake after a dismal presidential election.
It is already splintering, with some party officials wanting to align with Macron, some making overtures to Zemmour and others preferring to stay put.
Adding yet more uncertainty into the mix, Macron’s former prime minister, Edouard Philippe, has formed his own party, Horizons.
(Reporting by Richard Lough and Elizaebth Pineau; editing by John Stonestreet)