‘Ungovernable’ parliament blocks Macron’s reforms

“Out of control!” read the front page of Le Parisien on the state of France the morning after France held its second and final round of legislative elections.

After President Emmanuel Macron lost his majority in the National Assembly and found himself facing left- and far-right parliamentary blocs determined to undermine his economic reforms, including reforming the pension system The Welcome Daily captured the sentiment.

“This is a worst-case scenario for Macron,” said Vincent Martini, a professor of political science at the University of Nice. “The political culture in France is not in favour of a hung parliament . . . we are not used to compromise.”

This is the first time since 1988 that an election has failed to secure an absolute majority in parliament. Macron will be forced to strike a deal with his political opponents – most likely conservative Republicans (LR) – if he wants to pass laws such as he needs to enact his unpopular plan to raise the official retirement age from 62 to 65 years old. .

But analysts doubt Macron will be able to make significant progress in this parliament. He could replace his prime minister, Elizabeth Bohn, in recognition of the party’s poor results and, if the constitution allows, dissolve parliament and call new elections within a year or two.

Whatever he chooses, the leader is unlikely to rekindle the enthusiasm of the liberal reformers that marked the start of his first term since taking office in 2017.

Prime Minister Elizabeth Bohn under pressure after disappointing election results © Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

“Macron will not be able to achieve the economic policy goals he promised during his campaign because he has to make too many compromises,” said Armin Steinbach, a professor of law and economics at HEC Paris. “His reform agenda is far less ambitious than expected.”

Steinbach said that even pension reform could be watered down, and the easiest policies to pursue would be those that involve spending more rather than less — like investing in renewable energy, or subsidizing inflation-affected Consumers – as they are more likely to be approved by the Opposition.

For tougher reforms, Macron could try to reach an arrangement with LR, which has won 61 seats, to secure a majority in parliament. The president’s Ensemble coalition won 245 seats, while the LRs were all pro-business and agreed on policies such as cutting production taxes for French industry.

“I don’t think we can say that nothing will happen,” said Xavier Jaravel, professor of economics at the London School of Economics. “Measures will be taken to deal with [inflation] Take a crisis, for example. But the worry is whether we can change the status quo in the long run. “

Some see a glimmer of hope for France’s democracy — if it weren’t for its economy, it would be plagued by massive voter abstentions. The election of hundreds of new MPs from parties that have previously complained about underrepresentation could show hitherto disillusioned voters that they can have a voice even in a voting system without proportional representation.

“Contrary to what a lot of people say, this is proof of two majorities [winner takes all] The system does not necessarily produce results that do not reflect public opinion,” said Anne Levard, an expert on constitutional law at the Sorbonne University. “Will the opposition systematically oppose everything and make the state ungovernable, or will it take a position that will allow the state to be governed? Their credibility is at stake. “

In the 2017 legislative elections, the far-right National Party won eight of the 577 seats in the National Assembly despite Marine Le Pen winning 34 percent of the vote in that year’s presidential runoff. This time it won 89.

As for the left, its support in previous elections was split between parties, leaving few MPs left. This time, far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon has formed the Left-Green Alliance as the biggest opposition.

Far-left candidate Rachel Kéké campaigning in Paris: the left-wing Green Alliance has become the largest opposition group © Thibault Camus/AP

Analysts also said the new lawmakers from the right and left come from more diverse backgrounds. While Macron’s 2017 corps of new lawmakers included many women and mostly educated middle-class people, the new corps also included workers such as hotelier Rachel Kéké. Members of Melenchon’s France Unbowed party have led a long-running union strike over working conditions at an Ibis hotel on the outskirts of Paris. One of her colleagues is student Louis Boyard, 21, one of the two youngest MPs in French history.

“I think the French have been demanding a big update to their democracy,” Martini said. “It will be a whole new parliament. The new one is an amazing social update. . . Macron calls him [campaign] Book revolution, but what we see is actually very conservative. “

Macron himself has so far managed to recover from political setbacks, but now risks falling victim to the struggling second presidential curse that has plagued de Gaulle, François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, Martini added: “It’s the start of his tenure and it looks like it’s over. It’s hard to see how he’s going to bounce back.”

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