Macron caught between a rock and a hard place - GulfToday

Macron caught between a rock and a hard place

Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron was alarmed by the relative success of the far-right National Rally (RN) led by Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament elections, and called for a snap parliamentary election in France. In the first round, Macron’s fears about the far-right surge were confirmed when RN emerged strong, even as no party could get a majority on its own. 

Adopting a collective strategy, Macron’s centrists and the newly-formed New Popular Front (NFP)) joined hands and withdrew candidates to present a united front. It looks like the strategy did not help much. The NFP led by France Unbowed’s Jean-Luc Melenchon won 187 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, missing the simple majority of 289 by 100 seats. Macron’s own party, the Ensemble, lagged behind the combined left with 159 seats, and RN ended with a substantial 142.

Though the danger of RN forming a government has been averted, there is no clarity as to who would form the government and lead the country. The NFP is opposed to many of the reform moves of Macron like the raising of the age of pension and the curbs on immigration, which the left is determined to overturn. Melenchon has declared that one of the things on forming a government is to recognise the state of Palestine. Macron is not opposed to it either though he feels that the announcement should be made at the right time. So, there are irreconcilable differences between the centrists and the leftists. The left combine includes the Socialists, the Greens and the communists. Melenchon is also opposed to any deal with the centrists. Le Pen says that this election has sown the seeds of the future because her far-right party has won 32 per cent of the parliamentary vote on its own which no other party has.

It is speculated that Macron would take his own time for the formation of the government, and he expects the differences between the different parties forming the left coalition to come out into the open, and he might fish in troubled waters as it were and form a government which is less hostile to his policies. It is clear however that Macron, whose second term ends in 2027, and he cannot contest again because of constitutional restrictions, will not be in a position to push his policies either at home or abroad. Melenchon believes that Macron should call the NFP to form a government though there is much confusion as to who would be its prime ministerial candidate. But Macron is not likely to give in to Melenchon’s demand.

So, did Macron’s gamble fail to check the rise of the right and keep it away from power at home? He has succeeded partially. He has succeeded in thwarting the RN from coming to power. But he has failed to get a majority for his own party and his own policies. And he has not able to reach an agreement with the NFP before the elections.

The NFP is as much opposed to Macron as it is to Le Pen. It is an indication of the feistiness of the French politicians and parties. They are willing to court chaos rather than give in to pragmatism. But many leaders on the Left feel that it is time to negotiate sensibly with people and parties with whom the NFP does not see eye to eye. The more splintered the left and the moderate centrists show themselves to be, it will strengthen the far right. Green Party leader Marine Tondelier put it crisply as only the French can: “It’s not going to be simple, it’s not going to be easy, and no, it’s not going to be comfortable. It’s going to take a bit of time.”


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