The Dam Held

8 July 2024


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

French Left Wins Parliamentary Election

The second round of parliamentary elections happened yesterday in France. In the first round, the world watched the far-right Rassemblement National breast the tape with almost a third of the vote. Because the French system requires a run-off for candidates who do not get 50%+1 of the vote, the left had a chance to organize a defense. Candidates who came in third withdrew in favor of a non-RN candidate who beat them. As a result, the RN took third place, trailing the New Popular Front and the allies of President Macron, No one has a majority, but the worst has not happened.

In the National Assembly, there are 577 seats, meaning 289 is required for a majority. The New Popular Front (a combination of parties ranging from moderate social democrats to almost communists) will win between 172 and 192 seats. The allies of the president will take 150-170. The RN will receive between 132 and 152. So logically, the NPF and Macronists would go into coalition. French political parties do not have a solid history of doing this sort of thing.

First and foremost, there is the very nature of the NPF. It is a combination of parties, and these parties have history and rivalries from years gone by. There is some question as to whether they can hang together as a governing bloc. They came together to stop the hard right. Mission accomplished, but now what?

Secondly, there is the structure of the French Republic. The president has serious power, unlike the German president or the British King. He will appoint a premier who can command a majority in the National Assembly only for as long as it suits him. It is entirely feasible that France will have to vote again before too much longer.Thir

d, the RN is happiest when it is in opposition; it is lots of fun. One can gripe about the government, and one can offer plans that will never come to fruition. It will now have 150 or so seats from which to play silly buggers. That will undermine anything the government tries to do.

In a nutshell, Jon Henley of the Guardian said it best, "While the winner was a surprise, the result is as expected: a hung parliament of three opposing blocs with hugely different platforms and no tradition of working together -- and, under the terms of France's constitution, no new elections for a year."

This has played out probably better than most expected. President Macron decided after the European elections, which the RN won, to see if the French people really meant their votes in that election. As Sophie Pedder wrote in the Guardian, "One thing that is clear from the final parliamentary result in France. Macron called the vote after Le Pen's party came top in a European elections as if to call voters' bluff, and ask if they really wanted the far right to govern. The answer this evening came back: no".

Had the RN won, there would have been a real problem for the president. He would have to put up with them for the remainder of his term. In France, this is known as "cohabitation," when the president and the National Assembly majority come from different parties. It does not have a very successful history. Gridlock is the default setting here. Two years of gridlock would be bad for France and for Europe.

Pierre Briancon of Reuters gets the last word, "A serious reality check will come in the autumn when the new government has to present the 2025 budget. It will have to deal with the country's fiscal deficit and a debt load worth 5% and 112% of GDP respectively, as well as the need to reduce these under the EU's excessive deficit procedure, in a context of slow growth. The associated and required higher taxes and lower spending will then translate into broken promises, ideological flip-flops and probably an austerity plan. Who promised what to whom in terms of spending or taxes during the electoral campaign would then become seriously obsolete."

© Copyright 2024 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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