France: left advance and right surge as Macron loses majority

Just like in round one, the results of the second round of the French legislative election deviated greatly from the “projections” published by the pollsters ahead of the ballot. None had anticipated such a bad result for ‘moderate’ President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM), which now lacks the seats required for an absolute majority by a margin of 43. Equally, none had anticipated the result of the right-wing National Rally (RN), which is entering the National Assembly with 89 seats. These two facts are linked: the LREM candidates lost many more contested seats than expected to RN. But the left-wing New Ecologic and Social People's Union (NUPES) also lost more than expected to the RN.

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For LREM, the first round of the legislative elections was a clear setback; but the second was a defeat, even a debacle. Macron was counting on an absolute majority or, at the very least, a sufficiently strong relative majority to allow him to have his policies voted through by relying on a fraction of deputies from the traditional centre-right Republicans, who are divided on their attitude regarding the current government. But at 43 seats short of an absolute majority, and with only 64 Republican and Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) deputies, things look much more complicated for Macron.

In the coming days, frantic negotiations will be underway, spearheaded by the Elysée, to try to generate a semblance of a parliamentary majority. Needless to say, juicy promotions will be offered. It remains to be seen which Republican deputies will have the heart to take part in a government which, from its formation, will be severely weakened - not only in the National Assembly, but also and above all in the eyes of the mass of the population.

Macron hated and discredited

Abstention amounted to 53.8 percent, to which we can add 3.5 percent made up of blank or invalid votes. Only 42.7 percent of those registered voted for one of the candidates in the running. In other words, if the government is in a minority in the National Assembly, it is much more so in the estimation of the population, and especially among the mass of youth and wage earners. In turn, the fragility of the government in the National Assembly will have the effect of encouraging youth and workers to mobilise against the reactionary policies of Macron. From the point of view of the French bourgeoisie, which urgently needs drastic counter-reforms, this is very bad news. It will exert strong pressure on LREM and the Republicans to cobble together some sort of parliamentary majority. But the fracturing of the National Assembly, the Republicans' thirst for revenge, and the deep rejection of Macron by the mass of the population will make that equation much more complicated than expected.

With 142 deputies, the results for the NUPES are in the “lower bracket” of the projections published by the pollsters last week. Of course, thanks to the first-round agreement between Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise (FI), the Socialist Party (PS), the Greens and the Communist Party (PCF), this is still a strong increase in the number of seats, especially for the FI and the Greens. From the point of view of the coming struggles against the government, the breakthrough of the FI (which claimed 84 seats) can be taken as very good news. However, in view of the 7.7 million votes collected by Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the presidential elections on April 10, the success of the NUPES must be put into perspective.

As we have explained, the NUPES did not generate electoral momentum in the first round, and it is clear that it did not arouse any more in the second. We will analyse these results in more detail later. But already, two major facts are obvious. First, despite appeals from the leaders of NUPES in the interval between the two rounds, the abstainers of the first round did not mobilise. Secondly, the NUPES lost a significant number of its contests against the RN.

Polarisation

The French Marxists called for a vote for NUPES, which was the only alternative to the right and the extreme right. But we had warned that this union between the FI and discredited parties could not arouse enthusiasm in the most exploited and oppressed strata of the population. In addition, we stressed that talk of a so-called "republican front against the RN", in the interval between the two rounds of the presidential election, could only strengthen the RN, instead of weakening it. The legislative results confirm this. Moreover, the so-called "republican front" was shattered. That said, beyond the error of the "republican front", the success of the RN confirms a major trend, which is not new: the growing polarisation of politics – to the left and to the right. If this polarisation is expressed more clearly towards the right in the legislative elections, it is because the NUPES, in its very composition, was not the ideal vehicle for the polarisation to be expressed clearly on the left.

A major cabinet reshuffle is on the agenda. But even before seeing the light of day, the next government is already in crisis. Once again, the youth and the workers will be encouraged by this weakness to mobilise against the reactionary policies demanded by the bourgeoisie. In this context, the leaders of the left and of the trade union movement – ​​in particular those of the FI and the main trade union confederation CGT – face enormous responsibilities. From now on, they must prepare for great social struggles, not only to oppose the reactionary policies of the Macron government, but also with the aim of hastening its fall and its replacement by a left-wing government on a programme of breaking with the capitalist system. 

We are aware that this is not currently the position of the leaders of the FI or the CGT. But it is the position we will defend in the months to come, as the only one that corresponds to the objective needs of youth and the labour movement, against a backdrop of deep economic, social and environmental crisis.