Emmanuel Macron, the French president, lost his absolute parliamentary majority on Sunday in a stinging blow that portends a difficult second term in office.
The poor results mean that Mr Macron will struggle to advance his ambitious national agenda, which includes an overhaul of the French pension system.
Early reports on Sunday projected that Mr Macron’s centrist Ensemble (Together) alliance won 224 seats in the lower parliament. This would be enough to keep an overall majority but still short of the 289 seats it needed to keep the absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly.
The disappointing results for Mr Macron mark the first time in 20 years that a newly elected president has failed to win an absolute majority in parliament.
One of his options to seize back power would be to form a coalition with another party, such as the centre-right Les Republicains, which was projected to take 78 seats.
Olivia Gregoire, a government spokesman, said on Sunday evening that Mr Macron’s party would reach out to all moderate parties to find a majority.
“We reach out to those who want to take the country forward,” she told Reuters.
Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister, told France 2 that Sunday’s results signalled a “democratic shock that shows the deep concerns of the French people,” adding that there was still “a majority group around the President of the Republic.”
The upset comes less than two months after Mr Macron was reelected president against the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally party delivered perhaps the biggest upset on Sunday.
Preliminary results suggested that her party would take some 89 seats, eleven times more seats than the party won in 2017. Previous polls suggested the party would take less than half of that.
“We have become the largest group in the history of our political family,” Ms Le Pen told a crowd of supporters at her constituency headquarters in the Pas-de-Calais region.
She added: “We have achieved the three objectives we set ourselves: to make Emmanuel Macron a minority president; to continue the necessary political recomposition; to constitute a decisive opposition group against the destroyers from above, the Macronie, and from below, the far left.”
Challenge from new left-green alliance
Mr Macron’s greatest challenge this time around came from the newly formed left-green alliance, the New Popular, Environmental, and Social Union, or Nupes coalition.
Headed by the far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came in third place in April’s presidential elections, Nupes was projected to take 149 seats, an impressive showing for what is France’s first left-wing coalition since 1997.
While Mr Melenchon’s party didn’t take away Mr Macron’s overall majority, at the very least Sunday’s results mean Mr Macron’s party will likely have to make a series of compromises over the next five years.
“We have achieved the political objective that we had given ourselves,” Mr Melenchon said shortly after the preliminary results were announced, while still urging supporters to wait until the final results came in.
It is a major upset for the president’s pro-business domestic agenda, which included further tax cuts and raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.
Mr Mélenchon’s party, meanwhile, won over voters with a policy agenda that promised to focus on issues at home, including lowering the retirement age from 62 to 60, freezing energy prices amidst rising inflation, and increasing the monthly minimum wage to €1,500 (£1,287).
Balancing foreign policy
Low voter turnout played a key role in Mr Macron’s disappointing figures. Turnout at 5pm on Sunday was only at around 38 per cent, only slightly higher than at the same time in 2017.
Sunday’s results also have international implications as Mr Macron, who has been a key negotiating figure between Ukraine and Russia, now faces increasing pressure to prioritise his domestic agenda over foreign policy.
Mr Mélenchon, an outspoken Eurosceptic who has promised to pull France out of Nato, has criticised Mr Macron, whom he claims has put foreign policy ahead of his domestic agenda.
Mr Macron has shot back at Mélenchon’s own anti-Nato foreign policy agenda, warning it would be a disaster for France and Europe.
“We must carry on with the historic choices that France has made in terms of defence and Europe,” Mr Macron said last week shortly before boarding a plane to Romania to visit Nato troops.
He added: “We need a solid majority to ensure order outside and inside our borders. Nothing would be worse than adding a French disorder to the world disorder…we must defend our institutions against all those who challenge and weaken them.”
But that appeal was not enough to sway voters to give Mr Macron the majority he needed, perhaps not so surprisingly. A recent survey found that foreign policy has plummeted on the list of key concerns for French voters compared to in April.
The Ukraine war came in at eleven on a list of twelve concerns, well under health, purchasing power, and education.
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )