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France Faces Unprecedented Political Situation With Hung Parliament

A shock snap poll in France has now thrown up a shocking result. Weeks after expectations that Marine Le Pen‘s far right would do well in the parliamentary elections in France, some strategic calculations and alliances in the run up to round 2 of voting have thrown up a fresh surprise. Speaking after the second round of voting, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said, “I understand that many French citizens share a certain anxiety over the results that have not given a clear majority to any one party this election. The country faces an unprecedented political situation.”

That’s putting it mildly. France’s hung parliament means no one alliance or coalition has a clear majority. That has complicated the mix. The Left alliance is now the bloc with the most members in the French National Assembly having won 182 seats. Macron’s own Centrist alliance is in second place with 168 seats. And Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, which did well in the first round of polling, has got 143 seats. No party has the 289 seats needed for a clear majority.

With such a diverse verdict where the major blocs have very little common ground, France could see days before zeroing in on a consensus candidate for Prime Minister. Attal has handed in his resignation. Macron has asked him to continue in a caretaker capacity till the next PM is picked. But that process itself could take days. France is not used to a fractured mandate unlike nations like Germany or the Netherlands. This could also be the beginning of a period of political volatility. For now, parties are trying to work out who could be the country’s next Prime Minister in such a fractured mandate.

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Manuel Bompard, Senior Member of LFI said, “It’s a huge victory and a great hope that has been raised. It is also a severe defeat for Macron’s camp, for (French President) Emmanuel Macron and for the far right, which for several weeks now was announced as being able to have an absolute majority in the National Assembly.” The leader of Le Pen’s RN, Jordan Bardella, who was in the running for the post of the Prime Minister, acknowledged that his party made some mistakes during the polls. “In victories and in defeats, we should always analyse what worked and what didn’t. We will continue to work – I will continue to work – and I wish to arrive in the next elections being even more prepared, even more attentive to what the French are asking for, and ever more ready to exercise our duties,” said Bardella. “But we will govern, and the wave carrying us is a strong one, which was once again expressed yesterday with nearly 37% of votes cast by the French, and this wave will lead us to power.”

President Macron may take heart that the far right has been denied a shot at power that seemed almost a done-deal a few weeks ago. But the road ahead for the French President will not be easy. He will have to do a tight-rope walk, balancing a fractured political mandate at home, while trying to maintain France’s influence in Europe. The rise of the Left will put pressure on decisions at home as the far right continues to try to build on its sphere of influence.

So will this election result see Macron reclaim lost ground and turnaround the mandate on his leadership or as the headline in one French newspaper suggested, has France now moved from crisis to chaos?