media Ifri in the Media
Céline PAJON, cited by Gabriel Dominguez for the Japan Times

France’s left wins big, but paralysis in parliament looms

France is headed for a hung parliament after none of the political parties that contested Sunday’s parliamentary runoff vote managed to secure an outright majority — a situation that could put the country on a path for months of political gridlock.

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A hastily assembled coalition of left-leaning parties called the New Popular Front (NFP) unexpectedly became the largest bloc, winning 182 seats in France's 577-seat parliament after voters denied a majority to the far right, which had dominated the first round of legislative elections a week earlier.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance won 163 seats, while the far-right National Rally party, led by Marine Le Pen, finished third with 143 seats.

“The election results indicate that the strategy of a ‘republican front’ uniting the left and center-right to counter the far-right, worked, but did not result in a single party achieving the 289 seats required for an absolute majority,” said Celine Pajon of the Paris-based French Institute of International Relations.

In France’s dual-executive republic, it has been customary since 1986 for the president to appoint a prime minister from the parliamentary majority, even if that means selecting someone from a different political party — a situation called “cohabitation.”

But the latest election results put France in uncharted territory as the country has never had a parliament with no dominant party and therefore has no tradition of coalition governments.

“We are in an unprecedented situation, and it might take months to reach an agreement and establish a government,” Pajon said, adding that coalition negotiations “are likely to be challenging” amid deep divides over issues such as immigration, pensions and taxes.

Complicating matters are Macron’s statements that he would not work with the far-left France Unbowed party of Jean-Luc Melenchon, the largest in the left-leaning alliance.

It is also questionable whether other parties such as the Socialists and Greens would be willing to formally work together with an increasingly unpopular Macron, whose decision to call snap legislative elections to regain a clear majority backfired.

But another possibility would be for Macron, who has three years left in his second presidential term, to form ad-hoc alliances to pass specific pieces of legislation. However, Macron has employed this strategy with varying degrees of success after his party lost its majority in 2022.

“This approach has made it challenging to pass controversial reforms, such as those concerning retirement pension,” Pajon said, noting that the government has had to resort to Article 49.3 of the Constitution over 20 times to push through legislation without a parliamentary vote. However, a paralyzed government will be difficult to sustain, she added, noting that there will be “high pressure to reach an agreement as soon as possible.”


Even though a new prime minister could limit or constrain Macron’s decisions, the president still holds key powers over French foreign and defense policy as he is head of the armed forces and in charge of negotiating and ratifying international treaties.

But foreign affairs were not a central issue in this election, Pajon said, pointing out that the new government will likely prioritize reorienting domestic policy.

This means France’s support for Ukraine is expected to continue.


As for France's Indo-Pacific strategy, it is likely to remain consistent with past policies, experts say, as significant strategic decisions, including a planned deployment of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to the region in 2025, have already been made.

“I do not anticipate major changes in these domains,” Pipolo said.

“Alliances, laws and treaties are safe connectors to allies, friends and partners, and common deterrence toward China and Russia is far too important,” he added.

Pajon agreed, saying that the legislative election results are unlikely to significantly alter France’s engagement with Japan or its stance on China.


More likely, there is a risk that the current parliamentary deadlock will result in France adopting a cautious and less proactive approach on the international stage for a period of time, experts agree.

“The government is likely to steer clear of any provocative decisions in the short term,” Pajon said.


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French diplomacy French Foreign Policy French National Assembly China France Indo-Pacific Japan