PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron‘s centrist alliance is on the verge of missing out on a majority after a first round of Sunday’s general election saw a surge in support for a new left-wing coalition.
Macron’s “Ensemble” alliance (Together) was tied with leftist group NUPES in the first round on Sunday, with the two garnering around 25-26% of the vote.
Based on those numbers, four polling firms predicted that Together would win 225-295 seats in next Sunday’s crucial second poll, perhaps just short of a majority of 289 but by far the largest group.
“We have a week ahead of us to mobilize,” Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne told reporters. “A week to convince, a week to obtain a strong and clear majority.”
Together is “the only political group capable of winning a majority,” she said.
NUPES, a newly united left-wing coalition of leftists, socialists, greens and communists, won 150-220 seats, a major breakthrough that would make it the main opposition force in the National Assembly.
“This is a very serious warning to Emmanuel Macron,” political analyst Brice Teinturier told France 2, noting how support for the president’s party has declined since the last election in 2017.
“A majority is far from certain,” he added.
If Macron’s coalition fails, it could lead to dirty bill deals with right-wing parties in parliament, or he would have to try to lure opposition or independent MPs to his side.
Under the French constitution, the president has exclusive control of foreign and defense policy, but needs a majority in parliament to pass national laws.
Sunday’s vote followed presidential elections in April in which Macron secured a second term, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen with pledges to cut taxes, reform welfare and raise the retirement age.
Putting behind their divisions, the French left has united behind Jean-Luc Melenchon, a hard-left veteran who has a radically different programme, including lowering the retirement age, hiking the minimum wage by 15% and creating wealth taxes.
“The NUPES has passed the first test it faced in magnificent fashion,” Melenchon told reporters in a statement afterwards, calling on supporters to “pour out” next Sunday.
He called for the support in particular from the working classes and young people, adding that Macron’s allies were “beaten and defeated”.
Overall turnout was projected to be a record low of 46.8-47.9 on Sunday, according to polling firms, with abstentionism particularly high in working-class areas.
Le Pen looked certain to be re-elected as an MP representing a former mining town of northern France, Henin-Beaumont, with her National Rally party appearing on course to increase their representation.
After winning 18.5%-19.7% of the popular vote on Sunday, it was on track to secure 5-45 seats in the new parliament next weekend, compared with eight currently.
More than 15 MPs would give the far-right a formal group in parliament, giving it more time to speak and put issues on the agenda as well as extra resources.
Defeated far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was eliminated on Sunday after standing in a constituency around Saint-Tropez in southern France.
While Macron and his European Union allies were relieved by Macron’s victory over Le Pen in April, the past few weeks have offered no honeymoon for the 44-year-old head of state.
Energy and food prices are soaring as England fans’ disorder and tear gas during the Champions League final in Paris on May 28 drew blame.
His new disability minister, Damien Abad, has also faced two rape allegations – which he has vehemently denied – while new prime minister Borne has yet to make an impact.
Macron will make a public appearance at an arms fair in Paris on Monday morning, starting what promises to be an intense week of campaigning on all sides.
He and his allies have tried to portray Melenchon as an old-fashioned fiscal and spendthrift leftist whose anti-EU and anti-NATO policies pose a threat to the country.
Melenchon accuses Macron of undermining France’s precious public services and promises strong environmental policies and “harmony with nature”.
Jerome Jaffre, a political scientist, said many voters seemed motivated by a desire to deprive Macron of an absolute majority.
“It means that they hope to force him to collaborate more with others, to share power and to really change his mode of government, which he promised during his presidential campaign,” he told the LCI channel.
Official figures from Sunday’s vote are due Monday morning.