July 17, 2024

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France is facing an election like no other. Here’s how it goes and what happens next

France is facing an election like no other.  Here’s how it goes and what happens next

PARIS (AFP) – French voters are called to the polls on Sunday for an extraordinary moment in their political history: the first round of elections. Early parliamentary elections This could see the formation of the country’s first far-right government since the Nazi occupation in World War II – or no majority emerging at all.

The outcome of the vote, which followed a second round on July 7 and a hasty campaign, remains highly uncertain as three main political blocs compete: far-right national assembly, president Emmanuel Macron Middle Alliance and New Popular Front coalition This includes centre-left, green and hard-left forces.

Here’s a closer look:

How it works?

The French system is complex and does not correlate with national support for a party. Legislators are elected by region. A parliamentary candidate needs more than 50% of today’s votes to be directly elected on Sunday.

If that fails, the top two contenders, along with anyone else who receives the support of more than 12.5% ​​of registered voters, advance to a second round.

In some cases, three or four people make it to the runoff, although some may step down to improve another competitor’s chances — a tactic often used in the past to block far-right candidates.

The leaders of the main parties are expected to unveil their strategies in the period between the two rounds. This makes the outcome of the second round highly uncertain, and dependent on political maneuvering and voter reactions.

More than 50 countries head to the polls in 2024

The far-right National Rally party, which is leading in all pre-election polls, hopes to win an absolute majority, or at least 289 out of 577 seats.

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The National Assembly, the Chamber of Deputies, is the stronger of the two houses of the French Parliament. He has the final say on the law-making process in the Senate, which is dominated by conservatives.

Macron has a presidential term until 2027, he said. He will not step down before the end. From his state.

What is companionship?

If a political force other than his centrist coalition wins a majority, Macron will be forced to appoint a prime minister from that new majority.

In such a situation – called “coexistence” in France – the government will implement policies that conflict with the president’s plan.

The modern French Republic witnessed three cases of cohabitation, the last of which was during the era of conservative President Jacques Chirac, with Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, from 1997 to 2002.

The Prime Minister is responsible to Parliament, leads the government and introduces bills.

“In the case of coexistence, the policies implemented are essentially the policies of the prime minister,” said political historian Jean Garrigues.

The president is weakened domestically during the coexistence, but he still has some powers over foreign policy, European affairs and defence because he is responsible for negotiating and ratifying international treaties. The president is also the supreme commander of the country’s armed forces, and he is the person who holds the nuclear codes.

Garrigues added, “It is possible for the president to prevent or temporarily suspend the implementation of a certain number of the prime minister’s projects, because he has the power to sign or not sign government orders or decrees.”

He pointed out that “the Prime Minister has the authority to present these regulations and decrees to the National Assembly for a vote, thus overcoming the President’s hesitation.”

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Who leads defense and foreign policies?

During previous periods of coexistence, defence and foreign policy were considered the informal “reserved domain” of the president, who was usually able to find compromises with the prime minister to allow France to speak with one voice abroad.

However, the views of both the far-right and left-wing coalition in these areas differ radically from Macron’s approach, and are likely to be different. The topic of tension during potential intercourse.

Garrigues said that according to the constitution, “the president is the head of the armed forces, but the prime minister is the one who owns the armed forces.”

“In the diplomatic sphere as well, the president’s surroundings are largely restricted,” Garriges added.

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella said that if he became prime minister, he would do so. They oppose sending French troops to Ukraine – This is a possibility that Macron did not rule out. Bardella also said he would refuse to hand over to France long-range missiles and other weapons capable of hitting targets inside Russia itself.

If the leftist coalition wins the elections, this could disrupt French diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.

The new Popular Front plan includes “immediate recognition of the Palestinian state” and “cutting off the French government’s guilty support” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Macron had argued earlier The Palestinian state should be recognized. In a “useful moment”, which indicates that the war between Israel and Hamas does not allow such a step at the present time.

What happens if there is no majority?

The president has the right to name a prime minister from the parliamentary group with the largest number of seats in the National Assembly – which has been the case for Macron’s centrist coalition since 2022.

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However, the National Rally party has already said it would reject such an option, as it would mean the far-right government could soon be toppled by a no-confidence vote if other political parties joined together.

The president could try to build a broad coalition from left to right, an option that seems unlikely, given the political differences.

Another complex option, experts say, could be to appoint a “government of experts” that is not affiliated with political parties but would need the approval of a majority in the National Assembly. Such a government would likely deal mostly with day-to-day affairs rather than implement major reforms.

If political talks take too long amid the summer break and the Olympic Games in Paris from July 26 to August 11, a “transition period” is not ruled out, with Macron’s centrist government “remaining in charge of current affairs”, pending further decisions, Garrigues said.

“Whatever the form of the National Assembly, the Constitution of the Fifth Republic appears to be flexible enough to withstand these complex circumstances,” Mélodie Mock-Gruit, a public law expert who teaches at Sciences Po Paris, said in a written note. “Institutions are more resilient than they appear, even when faced with this experimental practice.”

“However, there is still another unknown in the equation: the population’s ability to accept the situation,” Mok-Groet wrote.