Essential Takeaways from the French Election

Against all expectations, the “republican front” against the far-right RN has succeeded. However, neither the left alliance NFP (comprising four different parties, with none holding a dominant position), nor the presidential majority nor the RN and its allies can form a government on their own. Coalition governments supported by political parties with a majority in Parliament, as is standard practice in most other countries in Europe, are not part of French culture.  

By the numbers:

  • The left alliance Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP – New Popular Front) - 180 seats
  • France unbowed (LFI, more radical left) – 71 seats
  • Socialist Party (PS, center-left) – 64 seats;
  • Green Party (center-left) – 33 seats;
  • Communist Party – 9 seats;
  • Others: 3 seats.
  • Presidential majority Ensemble - 163 seats
  • Renaissance (presidential party) – 98 seats;
  • Modem (center to center-right) – 34 seats;
  • Horizons group or Horizons and affiliated group (centre-right) –26 seats;
  • Others: 5 seats.
  • Rassemblement national (far right RN – National Rally) and allies – 143 seats:
  • RN – 126 seats;
  • Allies led by the contested LR’s head, Eric Ciotti – 17 seats.
  • Les Républicains (LR – The Republicans, center right) - 66 seats.

Please note that there is no official information yet on the NFP and the presidential majority coalitions breakdown. The figures above are just estimates and it may take some time for the official figures to be published as elected deputies will have to declare which group they want to belong to.

Preliminary analysis and scenarios:

In this context, several short-term scenarios are possible, but none rules out a situation of instability that could lead to the National Assembly being dissolved again after June 9th, 2025 in accordance with the Constitution (Article 12 of the Constitution provides that the President cannot dissolve the National Assembly in the year following these elections) or to the use of other constitutional tools that would trigger political crises and/or new elections. 

1. Attal government remains in place 
President Emmanuel Macron has announced that he will hold off on making any decisions until the National Assembly is properly structured, taking the new landscape into account. In line with the tradition, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal submitted his resignation this morning to President Macron who rejected it and asked him “to stay in office for the time being, to ensure stability of the country”.

This interim period would allow the Government to handle day-to-day matters and this scenario could drag on until July 18th at least, when a statutory session of Parliament will open for two weeks, to elect the National Assembly’s governance. During this session, a motion for a vote of no confidence could be passed at any time and lead to the fall of the Government (see below ‘next steps’).

While politically this would mark a break with French tradition, constitutionally speaking the President has the right to rename the same Government. If the parliament summer recess is confirmed, the Attal Government could hold on until the opening of the next session by no later than October 1st, date when the ordinary parliamentary session begins.

2. President appoints a Prime Minister from the ranks of the NFP, the first declared force within the National Assembly

In this scenario, assuming the NFP were to go along with it, the Government would face a no confidence vote very quickly. However, before this can occur, the four parties forming the NFP majority would have to agree first on a Prime Minister – a task that appears challenging. Indeed, disagreements have already surfaced during the NFP parties’ leaders tonight’s declarations. Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the more radical left LFI, insisted that his party will only govern according to the NFP’s platform. In contrast, Olivier Faure of the Socialist party and Marine Tondelier of the Greens have expressed more moderate positions.

It is also noteworthy that the more radical left LFI and the Socialist party could have a nearly equal number of seats and the deputies will finally decide in which political group they want to sit, during the statutory session of Parliament that opens on July 18th.

3. A coalition Government
The President of the Republic names as Prime Minister a more or less consensual figure supported by several of the political forces represented in the National Assembly. These forces could then have representatives in the Government. A couple of coalition sub-scenarios could be possible depending on the results:

  • Government bringing together the presidential majority, moderate Socialists, Greens and potentially LR (“national unity”-type coalition). To note, LR has ruled out this scenario for the time being;
  • Government formed by all or part of the NFP and the presidential majority. However a majority by subject matter will have to be found among them.

These 3 scenarios are not incompatible and could follow on one another. 

Next steps:

Appointment of a Prime Minister and formation of a Government. The formation of the Government will be a 2-step process: 

  1. The President will name a Prime Minister: It is worth noting that the President is is not required by law to name a Prime Minister from the party with the most seats in the National Assembly or to appoint a member of Parliament. The choice of Prime Minister and the composition of the Government, which is accountable to Parliament, is determined by their ability to resist a motion for a vote of no confidence (Article 49 and 50 of the Constitution) and/or to push through legislation.
  2. On the proposal of the Prime Minister, the President will name the other members of the Government (Article 8 of the Constitution).

The Constitution does not set a deadline for these 2 steps, but Republican tradition requires the Prime Minister to tender his or her resignation to the President the day after the results of the legislative elections (this is known as a “courtesy resignation”). A Prime Minister will then be named in the following days, before the appointment of the government, here again typically within 2 to 8 days.

Since he came to power, Emmanuel Macron has broken a lot of unwritten conventions of French institutional life. By way of example, almost six weeks passed before Gabriel Attal was named Prime Minister and all of the positions in his Government filled. For this reason, it impossible to anticipate his next step, except that he will not act before the National Assembly has elected its governance, likely the week of July 22nd.

So long as a new Government has not been named, Government ministers need to stay in their jobs and manage day-to-day business. 

Parliamentary session “by right” between July 18th and August 1st

This is the only timeline that is set in stone at this stage. In point of fact, under Article 12 of the Constitution, following a dissolution, the newly elected National Assembly meets for a session "by right", which opens on the second Thursday following the election if the ordinary session is not open, for a period of 15 days.

Elections for governance positions within the National Assembly are scheduled to be held between July 18th and 20th. This session is not reserved solely for the filling of key positions, and the lawmakers can also legislate during these 15 days. This happened back in 1968, 1981, 1988 and 1997. 

In such case, the question of whether the Government or the National Assembly will decide on the agenda is unclear, Article 48 of the Constitution simply providing that it is defined “by the Government or the National Assembly”. 

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