Macron caught between devil & deep sea in French elections

Front against far-right in 2nd round may fail to deliver



July 3, 2024

/ By / Paris

Macron caught between devil & deep sea in French elections

RN, which had 88 seats in the outgoing house, has managed to get 37 of its candidates, including Marine Le Pen, elected in the first round itself

With four days to go before voting in the second round of French Parliamentary elections, it is evident that whatever be the outcome of the elections, it will be terrible for French President Emmanuel Macron as he will have to work with a Prime Minister hailing either the extreme right or extreme left party, while watching voters deliver his own party a knock out punch. But Macron has no one else than himself to blame for his dilemma.

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Ever since he emerged from the shadows to enter the race and suddenly bag the top job in the country in May 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron has been the key, if not the only relevant politician in the country, seen or rather perceived to be making one smart move after another to decimate his opposition, on the left, right and centre. 

He took strong decisions and earned the sobriquet, even if unflattering, Jupiter, of being the supreme, unchallenged power. His tactics worked for a long while, long enough to gain him a second term fairly easily in 2022, despite facing mounting challenge from the extreme right party, Rassemblement Nationale (Nationally Rally), led by Marine Le Pen.

Macron has been ballistic about European response to Ukraine and has been at the forefront of key decisions of the European Union

Macron has been ballistic about European response to Ukraine and has been at the forefront of key decisions of the European Union (Photo:

But somewhere along the line, his strong-arm tactics began to backfire, especially his handling of the French economy, in the post-Covid era, notably with the record high inflation in energy prices that resulted from Russia-Ukraine war, while food inflation had already been raging since the pandemic.

While his own citizens struggled and bemoaned their difficulties in making the ends meet, Macron has been ballistic about European response to Ukraine and has been at the forefront of key decisions of the European Union, notably giving billions of euros in aid to Ukraine, both military and civil, welcoming millions of Ukrainians across EU and even easing the imports of Ukrainian products, notably agricultural produce.

As is his wont, Macron ignored reports of widespread anger about his Ukrainian policies and decided to turn to his time-tested tactic of riding roughshod over all objections. Finally, he was delivered a wake-up call when his party was routed in elections to the European Parliament on June 9, with less than half the votes gained by Le Pen’s party and a surprisingly strong showing by the socialists, who had seemed to be bystanders in French elections for almost a decade.

Unnerved by the results, Macron decided to play double or quits and in the heat of the moment, he dissolved the French Parliament and called fresh elections in under three weeks after the European Parliament humiliation.

Macron banked his decision on the historical truth of French democracy since World War II. Every time, there was a serious challenge from the extreme right, earlier called Front Nationale, all the other parties formed a cartel and to ensure the far-right’s defeat in the second round. 

Macron was and perhaps still is certainly looking on this effect to repeat itself when he called the elections, trying to decimate RN and reinstate his grip on the power in Parliament. That he had taken the decision in a haste was evident within hours as his own party criticised his decision and even his Prime Minister Gabriel Attal had been clueless until the very last moment.

But as the first round voting shows, Macron has clearly overplayed his hand. First, to his big surprise, the fragmented left, which comprises of over 20 parties, somehow managed to coagulate into one common front within three weeks and put up common candidates and this front, called Nouveau Front Populaire (New People’s Front), performed magically well to claim the second spot in voting in the elections, with 28 pc of votes, well ahead of President’s own centrist party, now called Ensemble which managed only 21.27 pc votes, while the far right RN along with its allies stood at 33.15 pc votes.

RN, which had 88 seats in the outgoing house, managed to get 37 of its candidates, including Le Pen, elected in the first round itself and is currently projected to win anywhere up to 300 seats, with its allies, in the Parliament, while the NFP is projected to take over 170 seats and reduce Macron’s party to 105 seats.

Doing deals with ‘devil’

Jean Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (LFI)

Jean Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (LFI) (Photo: MathieuMD / Wikimedia Commons)

On Tuesday evening, the deadline for withdrawal of candidates from the 2nd round, Macron seems to have achieved partially his goal of securing a cartel against RN once again as his party joined hands with NFP and together they have pulled out candidates from 210 seats, leading to straight fights between RN and the other key parties, while there are triangular contests in over 110 seats.

In forming the cartel Macron has already embraced one of his bete noires, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (LFI) who has been sharply critical of Macron and all his policies right since his election in 2017. 

Macron himself has made it clear that there is no love lost between the two men as his has been equally critical of Mélenchon and his politics. The effects of LFI and Mélenchon can be clearly seen in some of the promises made in the manifesto of the NFP which promises sweeping changes in key reforms undertaken by Macron in the past seven years. 

These include reinstatement of a wealth tax, annulment of recent pension reforms that prolonged working life in France as well as other measures. LFI-dominated NFP is also set to seriously reorient the French policies in the Middle East, notably in the Israel’s incessant attack on Gaza that has led to tens of thousands of deaths in the past 10 months.

Nightmares on the right

Thus, even if the cartel against RN works again this time, it will force Macron to work with a Prime Minister whose sole objective would be do undo whatever Macron has done in the past seven years.

But, even that is uncertain since the voters’ disenchantment with Macron is high enough to see that not many voters would follow the leaders’ advice to vote against RN.

Marine Le Pen has led her extreme right party, Rassemblement Nationale to within grasp of power for the first time ever (Photo: Claude TRUONG-NGOC)

Meanwhile Le Pen and her key aide, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, who has been presented as the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, have been martialling their own troops and ensuring that their voter base not only remains intact, but also attracts voters of those candidates who have withdrawn in the second round. They are bound to be partially successful in this and it is still certain that RN will emerge as the largest political party in the Parliament on July 8, the day after the second round.

That might see defections from other parties, just as Macron had achieved in 2017, when a large number of leaders of socialist and centrist parties joined his own party and helped him form a government. More than half of his cabinet has been composed of leaders who defected from other parties to take up jobs with him.

With Bardella as Prime Minister, too, Macron would see most of his programmes rolled back or entirely cancelled.

And even if Bardella does not become the PM after the second round, RN will be a vociferous opposition in the Parliament and is certain to derail smooth functioning of the Parliament for the remainder of Macron’s Presidency.

Either way, On Monday morning, Macron is certain to find his legacy in tatters and he would have no one to blame for it, but himself.



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