French voters will flock to the polls next month to decide once again who will rule their country for the next five years.
As in last month’s presidential election, the French will decide the future of the European Union in June’s general election when they vote to elect their representatives to the National Assembly, the country’s lower chamber. This time the seeming threat to the EU comes from the left, not the right.
Will President Emmanuel Macron win the majority of seats in the National Assembly? Or can a newly united left impose a radical, Eurosceptic Prime Minister, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who will lead France into euro dissidence and the weakening of the EU?
An electoral alliance negotiated this week between Mélenchon’s hard-left France Unbowed, the green party EELV and the communists has been extended to the severely weakened Socialists – it will be tabled for approval by Socialist Party officials on Thursday.
The abrupt unification of the French left came largely on Mélenchon’s Eurosceptic terms. To the fury of moderate Social Democrats and some Greens, the alliance’s joint platform pledges to “not follow” or “temporarily withdraw from” the EU’s budgetary and economic rules. It also (incoherently) obliges a left-wing government to comply with French and EU law.
This “New People’s Social and Ecological Union” has a chance of winning a large block of seats on June 12 and 19, but almost certainly not enough to force Macron to nominate Mélenchon as his prime minister. (The French system is presidential in custom and practice, but ultimate power rests with Parliament.)
History and the mysterious rules of the two-round voting system suggest that Macron and his pro-European center bloc will emerge on June 19 with at least a working majority of the seats. The French electorate may be perverted, but never in the six decades of the Fifth Republic has a newly elected president been denied at least several seats in the Assembly.
The low turnout in the general election – 48.7 percent in the first ballot in 2017, or 29 points less than this year’s presidential election – should favor Macron. His older, wealthier, and more educated followers vote in all kinds of elections. Mélenchon’s younger, poorer, and racially diverse voters don’t (or at least haven’t until now).
In an interview, French political writer Chloe Morin described Mélenchon as his party’s “greatest weapon and greatest handicap”. Le figaro: a brilliant orator and a shrewd tactician, but a man who divides rather than unites the nation.
If his new left alliance does well in round one, Morin predicts, there could be “an anti-Mélenchon front” in round two.
This analysis was supported by a poll by Harris Interactive in this week. In last month’s second round of presidential elections, many left-wing voters backed Macron to keep Marine Le Pen and the far right out. In round two of the general election, Macron’s centrist allies will benefit from the reverse effect – tactical voting by the right and part of the centre-left to defeat Mélenchon, according to the Harris poll.
According to the Harris poll, both the new left bloc and the centrist bloc won 33 percent of the vote in the first round. In the second ballot on June 19, however, that would yield fewer than 100 seats for the left and well over 300 for Macron’s “centre” out of a total of 577.
And yet, and yet…these are unusual times in French politics. All predictions at this point are risky. General elections are 577 different races where local affiliations and issues can skew national trends.
June’s elections will also mark another stage in the redefining of France’s electoral borders. They are not being fought from left and right, but from left, right and center by three broad and internally divided blocks.
None of the three blocs seems strong enough to win an absolute majority of the seats. But the two-round system means that a party or coalition of parties can win a majority — even a large majority — nationwide with well under 50 percent of the vote.
If a bloc is sufficiently united and casts its ballot – and attracts portions of another bloc in the second round – it can win many more seats than its share of the electorate.
Only two of the three blocs are united enough to stand any chance of such a victory: Macron’s center and Mélenchon’s new and uneasy allied left.
On the nationalist-populist right, Le Pen’s National Rally has refused to ally with Eric Zemmour’s Reconquête. The centre-right Les Républicains, humiliated by their 4.7 percent in round one of the presidential election, are divided. A dozen or more of their MPs want to save their seats by aligning themselves with Macron.
Macron’s center is split into four or five groups, including his own party, La République en Marche. Difficult negotiations are ongoing over how to integrate the new centre-right Horizonte party, founded by Macron’s ex-Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
On the left, Mélenchon’s success in almost reaching the second round of the presidential election presented him with a historic opportunity. He uneasily unified the French left from a radical position, not from the consensual center. This inspires many of his young followers. This can prove to be an obstacle to selection or an unexpected advantage.
More than two candidates can reach the second round of the general election. To qualify, a candidate must come first or second in round one, or win the votes of 12.5 percent of registered local voters.
With a turnout of just under 50 percent, this means that a third-place finisher must win around 25 percent of the votes indeed vote to qualify. In the second round of the 2017 election there was only one threesome (out of 577).
In seats where there are head-to-head second-round battles between Macron candidates and left or Mélenchon candidates, many right-wing and moderate-left voters will vote for Macron to keep Mélenchon out.
However, the historically low turnout could offer Mélenchon an opportunity. He inspired an unusually large number of young and racially diverse voters to cast their ballots in the first round of the presidential election, a trend that pollsters failed to pick up on.
If he does that again, the result could be very different. A left winger or Mélenchon victory is extremely unlikely. With very high turnout in metropolitan areas and multi-ethnic suburbs, he might be right now – and it’s a big one could – Deny Macron a majority in the new assembly.
https://www.politico.eu/article/can-far-left-champion-melenchon-become-macrons-prime-minister/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Can left-wing extremist Mélenchon become Prime Minister of Macron? - POLITICS