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As France prepares to vote, what options does Macron have? – DW – 06/29/2024

As France prepares to vote, what options does Macron have?  – DW – 06/29/2024

French opinion polls suggest the far-right National Rally party is likely to win a majority in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, as voters go to the polls in two rounds. On June 30 and July 7. The party came at the top of the list European Parliament elections In early June, with nearly twice as many votes as President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance Party — a crushing loss that prompted Macron to recall the government. Early legislative elections.

If recent opinion polls prove correct, what does this shift in power mean for Macron’s ability to govern in Paris? Below DW answers your most pressing questions.

Who will Macron appoint as prime minister?

The French Constitution, adopted in 1958, imposes no restrictions on the president when it comes to choosing and appointing the prime minister. However, he must take into account the majority in parliament.

If the prime minister does not enjoy parliamentary support, the National Assembly – the more powerful of France’s two houses of parliament – will hold a vote of no confidence. The government must then submit its resignation to the president.

If the National Rally wins a majority of seats in the National Assembly, Macron The party will have to offer 28-year-old party leader Jordan Bardella the position of prime minister.

Political scientist Hans Stark of the Sorbonne University in Paris said Macron has no alternative. “Macron is very weak. He doesn’t have much room to maneuver,” he told DW.

French voters are preparing for early elections

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Bardella had set an absolute majority in parliament as a condition for assuming responsibility for the government, because without it he would not be able to implement his political program.

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If Bardella is appointed Prime Minister, France It will enter into what is called “coexistence” for the fourth time in its modern history.

How does cohabitation work?

When the president and the prime minister belong to different political camps, the executive power in France is divided. They must therefore work together for the good of the country in what is called “cohabitation.”

The first such arrangements were formed in 1986 under Socialist President François Mitterrand. After losing the parliamentary elections, Mitterrand appointed Gaullist conservative Jacques Chirac as prime minister, followed by his party colleague Edouard Balladur in 1993.

From 1997 to 2002, Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin ruled under President Chirac.

Jospin (left) and Chirac (right) shared power from 1997 to 2002.Photo: Thomas Koehler/Photothek/Picture Alliance

The division of power between two different political parties is expected to lead to friction and complicate decision-making processes.

The Constitution does not explicitly provide for coexistence, so the success of governance through this arrangement depends on how well the prime minister and president work together.

How strong is the coexistence government?

In France, the president usually handles national security and foreign policy, while the prime minister handles domestic affairs.

But under the cohabitation system, presidential duties would temporarily shift to the prime minister. This means that Macron would no longer be responsible for setting the broad lines of policy, and would have to share international relations duties with the government.

Speaking shortly before the first round of voting, the leader of the National Rally parliamentary party Marine Le Pen She explained how her party views the division of power: “The position of commander-in-chief of the armed forces is an honorary title for the president, because the prime minister is the one who holds the reins.”

The National Rally government will also have ample room for manoeuvre in domestic politics, but these issues could also lead to power struggles between the president and the prime minister, as the first cohabitation under Mitterrand in 1986 demonstrated.

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On July 14, Mitterrand publicly announced his rejection of his prime minister’s decision, declaring that he would not sign Chirac’s government decrees to re-privatize 65 nationalized banks, insurance companies, and industrial enterprises.

While no government decree can take effect without the president’s signature, such a refusal can only delay such a project, not stop it.

Can cooperation between Macron and Bardella succeed?

Stark predicted that Macron would reject parts of the National Rally’s platform, meaning the party may try to “push Macron into a corner until he eventually resigns.”

But imposing a complete blockade on the work of the National Rally government would also be out of the question, which means that Macron and Bardella would ultimately have to cooperate.

As leader of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella is expected to take over as prime minister – if the far-right wins the electionPhoto: Elliot Blondet/Abaca/Image Alliance

Macron will have to justify any rejection of his new government’s plans, which could mean that he will repeatedly call on the Constitutional Council to examine laws to ensure they are consistent with the constitution before announcing them publicly. Some National Assembly projects may actually fail to pass this hurdle.

What happens if the National Assembly does not get a majority?

Stark believes that Bardella will implement his declaration, and that the National Rally will refrain from taking over the government if the party fails to obtain an absolute majority.

If no other camp is able to form a majority, Paris will find itself in a dead end. The president will not be able to simply dissolve Parliament again, as the constitution sets a one-year waiting period.

In the parliament that Macron dissolved in early June, his coalition parties had only a relative majority—they held most of the seats, but not more than half of the votes cast. So the government repeatedly invoked Article 49.3 of the French constitution to pass laws it deemed important.

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Will there be a clear majority in the next National Assembly?Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP/DPA/Image Alliance

This article allows the government to pass a law without a vote in the National Assembly unless a motion of no confidence is passed within 24 hours.

But Article 49.3 is highly controversial, and the new Coexistence government will likely be reluctant to use it.

What could break the deadlock in the National Assembly?

So far, the various parties have refrained from specifying how they would react to a National Assembly without a majority.

Le Pen, of the National Rally, has previously said she would support early presidential elections if parliamentary polls end without a clear winner. But Macron still cannot be forced to resign. He has a presidential term until 2027 and has said he will not step down until then. There is no clear scenario for such a deadlock, and much will depend on the political dynamics after the election.

In principle, appointing a non-partisan government of experts may also be a possibility. But there is no historical model for this option.

Macron could also invoke Article 16 of the French constitution, which gives the president extraordinary powers in times of crisis to ensure the continuity of the state. He could then enact laws and issue decrees without parliamentary approval. However, French expert Hans Stark does not believe that Article 16 is a real option for the president.

“I don’t see how he can continue like this for three years until the next presidential election,” Stark said. “That basically means we’re going to be in a state of permanent crisis.”

This article was originally written in German.