Emmanuel Macron crashes to earth after losing his grip on Parliament

Mélenchon cleverly transformed his third place in the first round of the presidential election into a political triumph. He skillfully assembled a union of the far left, socialists and greens under his command with an iron fist. Deep differences on politics – especially on attitudes towards the EU – have been brushed aside. Together, the left rose.

Remarkably, given the way the presidential election was played out on center-right and far-right themes, the parliamentary contest swung to the left, with Macron nominating a prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, with socialist ties, and echoing Melenchon’s call for more state planning to tackle climate change.

Harshly left in charge

It would be unfair to label the entire New People’s Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) as extremist. But there is no doubt that the hard left is in charge.

Supporters of far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon react Sunday in his election night headquarters. PA

Mélenchon wanted to be elected prime minister in what would have been an atrocious cohabitation with the president. Having fallen well short of that goal, Melenchon can be expected to give Macron a thorough and uncompromising opposition.

Melenchon celebrated the “reroute” of Macron’s party, saying he vindicated his strategy. But the most significant breakthrough may actually belong to Le Pen. His National Rally party was on track to win perhaps 10 times as many seats as it did in 2017 and, crucially, more than the mainstream center-right Republicans.

Republicans, it seems, fared better than their abysmal results in the presidential election suggested.

Macron can no longer rely on parliament as a mere house of approval. Instead, he will be forced to negotiate with demanding allies and new partners with a vendetta. PA

They are the obvious partners of Macron, who has relied on their politics and their personnel. But they are also deeply divided on strategy and positioning. Being overtaken by the far right will only make them harder to deal with. The first reaction of Christian Jacob, the president of the Republicans on Sunday evening, was to say that the party would remain in opposition.

France has a very centralized state. Macron took it to a new level, concentrating power, sidelining other institutions and civil society as he ruled the country from his palace. Although not quite an automatic buffer, Parliament has largely followed its orders. The next five years now look very different. France is a parliamentary democracy, after all.

The result is humiliation. Some of Macron’s closest political allies, including Richard Ferrand, president of the outgoing National Assembly, and Christophe Castaner, the leader of Macron’s party in parliament, lost their seats.

Many French voters will see the result as a rejection of an arrogant and overly personalized way of governing; others will fear that the country with all its social tensions will become ungovernable, further undermining faith in democracy and fueling extremist forces.

Macron has his own mandate. The president has power over foreign policy and defense and can dissolve parliament in the event of paralysis. He is nothing if not ideologically versatile. But it will take new political skills and a certain humility to save his second term.