What next for France with a hung Parliament and Olympics

France has entered a phase of political uncertainty with no political bloc winning an absolute majority in Parliament. The timing couldn't have been worse, with France playing host to the world for the 2024 Paris Olympics. This is what could come next.
What next for France with a hung Parliament and Olympics
Anjali Raj / Jaano Junction

France is in the throes of confusion and political uncertainty after the election for the National Assembly threw up a fractured mandate. With no alliance even close to a majority in Parliament, who forms the government and when is being speculated and debated. The time couldn't have been worse, as France is set to host the world for the 2024 Paris Olympics in three weeks.

A question that's on everyone's mind is who takes charge in France and how smoothly will the Games be organised.

The nationalist National Rally of Marine Le Pen was set to win the most seats in the French National Assembly after the first round of voting in France last week. In the second round, it amassed the most votes for a single party, but the Left coalition emerged as the surprising winner on July 7. President Emmanuel Macron's Centrist bloc came second. This has left France with a hung House with no party close to a majority and no clarity on government formation.

The French Constitution does not allow another election for a year. What more, Paris is hosting the 2024 Olympics in in less than a month.

The New Popular Front (NFP), led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s radical left Unbowed France (LFI) has emerged as the biggest alliance in France's snap election, with 182 seats in the 577-seat assembly. President Macron's centrist coalition has 163 MPs and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) and its allies, which had been expected to be the victors in these elections, have 143 MPs.

The winners are a surprise to all, but the results had been predicted. Many expected France to see a hung Parliament between the three fronts.

The snap elections were called by Macron after his coalition was routed by the National Rally in the European parliamentary elections in June. He banked upon French people's fear of the first far-right government since World War II.

However, only half of Macron's assumption has been proven right. France has outvoted the far-right parties, but did not give his centrist government a majority.

With a fractured mandate, the big question is, what's next for France amid a hung Parliament and the Olympics, which are set to start on July 26?

2024 PARIS OLYMPICS AMID POLITICAL CHAOS IN FRANCE

Why the world is watching the developments in France with keener interest is because Paris is hosting the Olympics in a couple of weeks.

Officials and organisers had been preparing day and night for the Games. However, the snap poll and the media attention to politics shifted focus away from the world's biggest sporting extravaganza.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has been overseeing the security preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics. However, his fate is in the balance with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal tendering his resignation.

“What organisers worry about the most are things like delinquency and crime, and of course, terrorism, as well as traffic conditions,” Paul Dietschy, a history and sports professor at the Universite of Franche-Comte in France, was quoted as telling AFP. “The interior minister is the most important position.”

The violent protests by rightwing supporters and the chaotic celebration by the Left supporters brought back concerns over security.

France has spent $2.6 billion of taxpayer money preparing for the Olympics. Hosting the Games is a matter of national pride for countries.

HUNG PARLIAMENT IN FRANCE AND DOUBTS OVER PM

The ultra-Left New Popular Front (NFP) alliance with the Unbowed France (LFI), the Socialist Party (PS), Greens and Communists will be the largest force in Parliament. They want to lower the retirement age which Macron increased in 2023 and aim to increase government spending on social welfare, environmental protection measures and healthcare.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a hard-left leader, asked Macron to appoint a prime minister from the alliance and implement the full NFP programme.

Addressing an excited crowd, Mélenchon asked Macron to ask the NFP to form a government immediately, adding that the NFP was “ready to govern”.

"Its constituents, the united Left, have shown themselves equal to the historic occasion and in their own way have foiled the trap set for the country,” he said. “In its own way, once again, it has saved the Republic," according to France 24.

Many within the Left alliance itself do not want Mélenchon to become the Prime Minister. People within the NFP and those outside of it are well aware that the Left would have to make compromises.

FRENCH PRIME MINISTER ATTAL HANGS ON FOR NOW

“Our country is facing an unprecedented political situation and is getting ready to host the world in a few weeks,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said, talking about the Paris Olympics. He offered to stay on in his position “as long as duty demands”.

Though Attal has resigned, it is up to President Macron to accept or let him continue as PM. Interestingly, Macron hasn't formally reacted to the election results.

France's Constitution permits the President to decide the PM. But, Parliament can ask the government to resign. The President chooses a person acceptable to Parliament.

If the President chooses a person from the largest bloc of the parliament- a left Prime Minister, he could face continuous no-confidence votes by the centre-right and the far-right and even from the centre.

France does not have a history of extensive coalitions, but many think it is the solution to a hung parliament.

“We are in a divided assembly; we have to behave like adults,” said Raphaël Glucksmann, leader of the Socialist list in the European elections. “Parliament must be the heart of power in France.”

Macron ally and former minister, François Bayrou noted, “the days of an absolute majority are over" and it is on “everyone to sit at a table, and accept their responsibilities”.

Some centrists like Edouard Philippe, a former prime minister under Macron, are ready to work out a deal with the left to form a government. But they are not ready to work with France Unbowed.

Whether there will be a compromise or not will depend on LFI. It will also depend on the left if Mélenchon’s party does not join the government. He has always said that his party will join the government only when they "“implement our policies, and no one else’s”.

ALLIANCES OR CARETAKER GOVERNMENT IN FRANCE?

While the coalition might be built, it would be difficult to build a consensus on the issues of wages, salaries of public sector workers, taxation, pensions and green investment.

There is also a possibility that ad hoc alliances might be formed to vote for individual legislation. Macron has tried this move but without much success.

The president might also appoint a technocratic government made of experts in different fields. But France has never had such a government, according to the Guardian.

Macron could also ask Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to continue as a part of a caretaker government.

France is headed to face some political uncertainty with a hung Parliament and parties trying to form a coalition government.

Macron has said he will not resign before that date and if chaos prevails in France, it may also lead to his resignation.

France is set to face uncertain times and the coalition era will be a new phase for its politics.

It is the timing of the uncertainty with the Olympics around that is of concern to the world. However, experts are hopeful.

Off-field issues have often overshadowed the Olympics in the build-up, David Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, told AFP.

Also Read
France faces hung parliament as left-wing trumps far-right with no majority
What next for France with a hung Parliament and Olympics

For the next couple of weeks, the election and politics could be a big issue, but the minute the competition starts, these sorts of stories kind of fade away,” said Wallechinsky.

Source: India Today

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