France’s Constitution Will Be Tested
By depriving President Emmanuel Macron of a majority in the National Assembly, French voters have departed from the usual script and presented the country’s political system with a major challenge. With both the far left and the far right well represented in parliament, the political conversation has changed irreversibly.
PARIS – It was regarded as a given. Whatever the result of France’s presidential election in April, voters would elect MPs from the same party as the winner in this month’s general election. But, by depriving President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition of an absolute majority in the National Assembly, voters have departed from the usual script and presented France’s political system with a major challenge.
Although the constitution stipulates that “the government shall determine and conduct the policy of the nation,” French voters display scant interest in National Assembly elections. Turnout was expected to be abysmally low, and so it was: No less than 70% of voters aged between 18 and 34 stayed away. So far, so predictable.
But the election’s unexpected outcome shows that even highly stable political systems can reach a breaking point. The presidential election revealed a country split into three blocs of roughly equal size: the far left, the not-so-radical center, and the far right. The far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon was skillful enough to build an unlikely alliance and to campaign under the slogan “elect me prime minister.” And Macron did not miss an opportunity to show how distracted he was (to the extent that he failed to indicate how he would wish voters to choose between the far left and far right). Perhaps most important, French voters are deeply dissatisfied.