France fails to win majority after elections: what happens next?

When President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to call early parliamentary elections last month, he repeatedly insisted that France needed “clarity” on the political situation.

But on Monday, after French citizens had cast their final vote, the situation was far from clear.

He failed to win a majority in a nationwide vote for the 577 seats in France’s most powerful parliament, the National Assembly. Instead, it leaves open questions about who will be France’s next prime minister, who will be in the next government and where the country is headed.

Here’s what you need to know about what happens next.

The election has created three big factions, none of them strong enough to rule alone, none too hostile to cooperate, and none of them reaching the 289-seat threshold for an absolute majority to form a government that could withstand a vote of no-confidence by their rivals.

The New Popular Front, a coalition of left-wing parties including the Greens, Communists, Socialists and the far-left Indomitable France party, was the largest party in the National Assembly with about 180 seats. Macron and his centrist League came in second with about 160 seats, and the far-right, anti-immigration National Rally and its alliance came in third with about 140 seats.

Sunday’s result was unusual because the country’s two-round electoral system – early voting and a runoff election – typically means a single party aligned with the president wins an absolute majority to form a government.

“This is a leap into the unknown,” said Olivier Costa, a research professor at Sciences Po’s Center for Political Studies.

One possibility floated before the election, when polls predicted a far-right victory, was coexistence. This would occur if the president’s rival party won an absolute majority. The president would then be forced to choose a prime minister from that party, or face the threat of a wave of no-confidence votes against his nominee.

Macron will likely have to appoint someone from outside his party, but his rivals do not have the majorities to force him out immediately.

New Popular Front leaders say that because they were the first to win the election, Macron should appoint someone from their party as prime minister, who would then form a government, but the party and its allies are about 100 members short of the majority needed to survive a vote of no confidence in today’s polarized political climate.

Macron is highly unlikely to pick anyone from the far-right National Rally or the far-left Indomitable France, both of which he has labelled “extreme” and other political groups have flatly denied cooperation. Macron may try to reach out to parties within his New Popular Front that have something in common with the centrist coalition, but these parties have shown little appetite for working with him.

Macron could theoretically appoint anyone who reflects the political consensus of the National Assembly, even if they are not members of parliament. Some analysts and politicians have suggested the idea of ​​a broad coalition government including parties from the three main blocs who could agree on a limited policy agenda with the prime minister.

But that won’t be easy so far: “French political parties are mainly set up to train presidential candidates, so the political forces are not very interested in working with each other,” Costa said, noting that many of Macron’s rivals and allies are already preparing for the 2027 presidential election in which he will have to step down.

Another possibility that has been floated is for a cross-party government of technocrats to run the country until a coalition deal can be reached, but this solution is less familiar to the French.

Legally speaking, no. The Constitution does not provide any deadline for appointing a prime minister and forming a government.

Mr Macron’s current prime minister, Gabriel Attal, submitted his resignation on Monday, as is customary after parliamentary elections, but Mr Macron has asked him to stay on for the time being to ensure “stability”, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Attal may remain in his post to run the country at least through the Paris Summer Olympics, which ends on August 11.

But a prolonged deadlock would severely undermine France’s ability to pass a budget and enact key legislation in the autumn.

Can Macron get out of this quagmire by calling new elections? Not anytime soon: The constitution requires the president to wait at least a year before calling new elections.

This means that at least until then the newly elected National Assembly will function, with members able to submit multiple votes of no confidence without fear of the threat of a second vote.

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