Macron camp shaken out of lethargy with risk they could fall short in parliament

The gloves are off, as ‘Last-minute Emmanuel’ names far-left grouping led by Mélenchon his chief adversary

French president Emmanuel Macron’s coalition of four centrist parties, dubbed Ensemble! for the purpose of the June 12th and 19th legislative elections, should win a plurality of the 577 seats in the National Assembly.

But Macron risks falling short of the 289 seats required for an absolute majority, forcing him to conduct messy negotiations and parry with an unruly opposition led by the extreme left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon each time he wants to pass legislation.

An Ifop-Fiducial poll published on May 31st predicts that Ensemble! will take 275-310 seats, while Mélenchon’s grouping of three left-wing parties and the Greens, known as the Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale, or Nupes, will win 170-205 seats.

The mainstream conservative party, Les Républicains, would come in third, with 35-55 deputies in the next Assembly.


The extreme right is paying the cost of division. The failed presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National should win 20-50 seats. Her rival, Éric Zemmour, is expected to secure between one and four seats for his party, Reconquête.

France does not use proportional representation, and the electoral system is skewed to favour establishment parties, so results do not reflect the percentage of votes received. In terms of voter intentions, Macron’s and Mélenchon’s candidates are running neck and neck, with each credited with about a quarter of first-round votes.

Macron often plays the role of Last-minute Emmanuel, but Nupes’s strong performance in polls has finally shaken his majority out of lethargy.

Macron and the cabinet he appointed on May 20th have until now conducted what France Info radio editorialist Renaud Dély called “a furtive, almost surreptitious campaign” following the pattern of Macron’s presidential campaign. Macron had declared his candidacy for re-election at the latest possible date and did not begin campaigning in earnest until after the first round on April 10th.

Macron’s non-campaign deprived opponents of a foothold to attack him, but it also increased voter apathy. His low profile also allowed two scandals involving cabinet ministers he lured from the conservative LR to dominate headlines. Damien Abad, minister for the disabled, was accused of rape and sexual aggression. Interior minister Gerald Darmanin has been vehemently criticised for the chaos that erupted at the May 28th Champions League final.

In the hope of winning over Mélenchon’s voters in the run-off against Le Pen, Macron sent explicit signals to the left during the presidential campaign. He borrowed the term “environmental planification” from Mélenchon, and quoted the founder of the Socialist Party, Jean Jaurès.

Projections indicate that in the second round on June 19th, Ensemble! candidates may face twice as many left-wing challengers as in 2017. But the gloves are off now.

At a meeting on May 31st with candidates who support him, Macron named his main adversary as “the extreme left ... which has chosen sectarianism over universalism”. Mélenchon and his allies agreed on only one thing, Macron said: the desirability of “degrowth” or economic decline. They could not even agree on a policy regarding nuclear power, he added.

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne called Nupes “an arranged marriage of all components of the left, solely at the service of the revanchist ambitions of Jean-Luc Mélenchon”.

After coming in third in the presidential poll, Mélenchon called on the French to “elect [him] as prime minister” by giving him a majority in the Assembly. Government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire says Mélenchon “wants not a majority to improve the country, but a minority to block it”.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire called Mélenchon “the Gallic Chavez”, after the late Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez, and said Mélenchon’s advocacy of collective means of production, massive hikes in tax and social charges, and his intention to redistribute wealth “that has not been created” would “drive our country straight into bankruptcy”.

European policy is a major difference between Macron and Mélenchon. In Strasbourg on May 31st, Macron said the French “chose Europe” when they re-elected him. Nupes promises to “disobey” European treaties it disagrees with.

Macron has adopted what the Élysée calls a “sweet before sour” approach to the present campaign. He this week offered “sweet” social measures, such as a law on purchasing power, a governmental conference on the crisis in French hospitals, and an appearance with the new education minister to highlight investment in schools by his previous administration.

Macron has spent more than €25 billion on an “energy shield” that freezes gas prices, limits electricity price rises to 4 per cent and gives back to consumers 18 cent for every litre of fuel purchased.

Pension reform, the “sour” element Macron had promised to address the moment he was re-elected, has been watered down and postponed. Anything not to scare the French, and to avoid antagonising the trade unions, which paralysed France in 2019-2020.