“This mandate begins more to the right”: first assessment of the new French political landscape

The French deputies play the extensions. On Monday, they resumed consideration of the amended draft budget, the second part of the “package” of measures for purchasing power. On the menu, among other things: the discount on the price of fuel and the nationalization of EDF. Objective: to complete this first reading as quickly as possible, which should have been settled on Friday, in order to pass the baton to the Senate and quickly end this first extraordinary session. The debates actually last longer than expected in view of the new constraints weighing on the macronists.

Because on June 19, the French legislative elections led to a parliamentary headache for Emmanuel Macron: he did not obtain the absolute majority fixed at 289 seats out of 577. Faced with a union of the left (Nupes) with 131 deputies , an extreme right (RN) with 89 seats and a traditional right (LR) with 61 elected members, the relative majority of the presidential alliance (Ensemble!) was no longer assured of passing its laws as it saw fit with its 245 deputies.

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At the time of a first assessment, the political scientist Olivier Costa, director of research at Cevipof de Sciences Po, notes that the government has not succeeded in mounting a stable majority with LR or socialist dissidents. “So he had to make the choice to go without a majority. There is no need for 289 deputies to govern the country, you just need not have 289 against you systematically. If the opposition is divided and there are abstentionists, we can govern with 245 deputies.

First text, first disappointment: faced with the increase in covid cases, the government had to extend certain measures such as the possibility of setting up a health pass at the borders. The Nupes, the RN and some LRs have joined forces to overturn this part of the “health security bill” at first reading. The Senate, however, managed to reintroduce it to a large extent.

Negotiations outside the hemicycle

The following text, the first part of the measures to support purchasing power in the face of inflation, adopted on Friday, had a more gratifying destiny for Macronie. The presidential camp effectively succeeded in convincing the National Rally and Les Républicains to vote with it on these measures. For Olivier Costa, “in search of credibility, the deputies of the RN are very cautious and do not prevent from governing, it is the good surprise of this beginning of mandate for the Prime Minister.” And above all, “The Republicans negotiate on a case-by-case basis, they trade their support against a certain number of amendments resulting from their program. On the purchasing power, they obtain for example the defiscalization of the overtime and the repurchase of the RTT. We are there on the legacy of Sarkozy with the slogan “work more to earn more” The right obtains symbolic victories which make this mandate start more on the right because of the systematic opposition of the Nupes.

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The New People’s Ecological and Social Union, on the other hand, opposed almost all the articles presented by the government, judging their orientation liberal and anti-environment. “The rebellious deputies are the guerrillas as one might expect, analyzes Olivier Costa. It has been twenty years since this behavior was theorized by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. By conflicting everything to try to create a revolutionary moment, they do not necessarily think of conquering power through the ballot box but through the streets. It’s complicated for those who are not on this line. The PS and the ecologists are trying to regain a form of credibility on the left by taking advantage of the hope created by the Nupes but being torn by a desire to appear reasonable in order to be those to whom we could entrust power. They leave to the rebels the role of those who systematically harass the government, because it is paid for in terms of credibility. Even among the Insoumis there are people like Clémentine Autain who try to call for calm. The strategy of systematic obstruction which leads nowhere is unsatisfactory for certain deputies who would like to influence certain texts.

Because today “the real negotiations take place outside the hemicycle, the government writes the law but, in the entourage of the ministers, there are discussions which are made with emissaries of the parties”, explains Olivier Costa. “In addition, the government is examining serious opposition amendments more carefully, sometimes some from the left, but more systematically with LR.”

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This is what the years to come could look like in a heated French political landscape. “Emmanuel Macron was smart to start with purchasing power because no one can dispute its objectives, according to Olivier Costa. It will be much more complicated with real reforms such as pensions. The government is actually trying to invent a method on easier texts before getting into the hard stuff at the start of the school year, explains the researcher: “Either they manage to find a routine by negotiating on a case-by-case basis with the right, or they will have to rule on sight, without major reform. It is also possible with the reserved domains of the president such as the international as well as the regulatory domain of the government such as all the education policy which can be managed by decrees. All this while waiting for a favorable moment for a possible dissolution and new elections. In two years, public opinion may have turned against the rebels by considering that the obstruction is not good for the country.

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