Emmanuel Macron is being tested as the French parliamentary elections begin

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PARIS – French voters went to the polls in the decisive round of Sunday’s parliamentary elections as an absolute majority of President Emmanuel Macron hung in the balance.

If he loses control of parliament’s lower house on Sunday, it could hamper his second term at a time when Europe faces serious challenges posed by the war in Ukraine.

Studies show that Macron’s party and its allies could lose dozens of seats and may fail to reach the threshold of 289 seats they will have to rule without having to form coalitions with political opponents.

Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the run-off in the April presidential election, securing another five-year term, but has since faced a bolder and more united left opposition made up of the Greens, Socialists, Communists and the far-left politician’s party. -Luck Melenchon. Many left-wing voters mainly voted for Macron in April to prevent a far-right victory, not because they supported Macron’s proposals.

Under Melenchon’s leadership, the left-wing alliance presented the parliamentary election – a vote usually in favor of the presidential party and allies – as a continuation of the presidential election and a realistic opportunity to influence Macron’s second term without risking empowerment. far right.

Although French presidents have more power over foreign policy and other areas than their counterparts in many other European countries, Macron still needs a parliamentary majority if he wants to implement his political agenda for the next five years.

“The whole of the Fifth Republic was created to prevent a situation of instability in parliament,” said Vincent Martini, a political scientist at the University of Nice, referring to France’s political system, which has existed since the late 1950s.

If Macron loses his majority, it will “create, for the first time since 1958, very strong instability in parliament,” he said.

After his re-election in April, Macron promised unite the country and made gestures to left-wing voters he had disappointed during his first term, during which he shifted to the right on various issues. But these moves seem to have come too late to regain lost support. In the first round of parliamentary elections last weekend, Macron’s alliance and his left-wing rivals ended unanimously. It was the worst result of the parliamentary elections of the current president for more than half a century.

As the possibility of a hanging parliament has become more realistic in recent weeks, Macron has doubled his criticism of Melenchon and called on voters to allow him to follow his agenda. “There would be nothing worse than adding French riots to world riots,” he said last week.

Despite his bloc’s poor performance last Sunday, Macron spent much of last week outside France, traveling to Romania to visit French troops on NATO’s eastern flank and then heading to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to meet with the president. Vladimir Zelenski. Macron’s trip to Ukraine briefly brought the war back into the spotlight in France, but studies show that other issues such as rising living costs, the impact of climate change or health care are more important to voters.

The focus of French voters on social and domestic issues has played into the hands of Melenchon, whose foreign policy proposals remain controversial in France and across the European Union. The far-left leader wanted to pull France out of NATO, and he deliberately argued in favor of France ignoring EU law. On Friday, Melenchon said he would naturalize WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which may soon be extradited from Britain to the United States if elected prime minister after Sunday’s vote.

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Melenchon is unlikely to be elected prime minister – a role that, unlike the president’s position, relies on a parliamentary majority. But his union could still penetrate deep into French politics and become a strong opposition.

The abstention rate could play a key role in Sunday’s vote. While voter turnout declined to a record low in the first round last weekend, some observers expect a possible resumption of turnout this Sunday as more constituencies remain competitive than five years ago.

In France, seats in parliament are not distributed proportionately. Instead, the two-round system is designed to lead to a run-off between the two leading candidates in their respective constituencies, excluding the rare case of a clear victory in the first round. In practice, this favors larger unions such as the Macron bloc or Melenchon’s left-wing alliance over smaller or more isolated parties such as the Le Pen National Rally.

Although Le Pen won a record 41 percent of the vote in the presidential election, her party is thought to win only a few dozen of the 577 seats in parliament.

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Le Pen he had refused to form an alliance with its far-right rival, Eric Zemmour, whose party failed to advance any of its candidates to the second round.

Melenchon’s success in forming a broad left-wing alliance has shocked some observers, but the alliance’s long-term chances of survival remain questionable.

The strong performance of the parties last weekend largely reflects the desire of many left-wing voters in France for more parliamentary representation, even if it requires concessions. Left-wing voters are worried that Macron is unlikely to keep his promises to take their concerns more seriously in his second term.

Still, the rise of the left bloc could force Macron to shift to the right after Sunday’s vote.

If Macron does not have a large number of seats, one of the only options for him could be a coalition with the center-right Republican Party. Another alternative could be to build ad hoc unions for each proposed bill.

But ideological compromises are rare in the French parliament, Martini said, “and especially for Mr. Macron, who is not a man of compromise.

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