Four reasons why the French parliamentary elections matter

Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters

The 2017 French presidential election saw the victory of newcomer Emmanuel Macron. But the French aren’t done voting. Elections for the lower house of French Parliament, the National Assembly, will take place on June 11 and 18.

Here are four reasons you should be keeping an eye on these elections:

No majority, no agenda

First, it can make or break Macron’s agenda of reforming the labor market and bringing back growth to a morose French economy. The French Constitution grants extensive powers to the president. These include, for instance, the authority to dissolve the Parliament and nominate the prime minister (the head of the government), as well as broad control of defense and foreign policy.

But, the president must have the support of a majority in Parliament to govern, pass laws and implement his campaign agenda. Macron would still be able to shape French foreign policy, even without a majority in the Parliament, but he would have limited say over domestic policy.

Unpredictable election

Second, this parliamentary election is unpredictable because of the French voting system.

The parliamentary election includes essentially 577 mini-contests – one for each district that represents an area of France – which take place over two rounds. A candidate can win outright in the first round if he or she receives more than 50 percent of the votes. If no one reaches that threshold, then there is a runoff in the second round with anyone whose score from the first round equaled at least 12.5 percent of registered voters.

Such an electoral system encourages preelection agreements between compatible parties, as well as deals between the two rounds. Thus, an eligible candidate might choose not to contest the second round to ensure the victory of an ally, or to block a rival.

Although the alliance supporting Macron has a very good shot at achieving a majority in Parliament, one cannot rule out two other outcomes that would be unfavorable to the new president. Another party or coalition could win a majority in the Parliament, which would be a major blow to Macron’s domestic agenda. Or, there could be a fragmented outcome, with no party or coalition able to achieve a majority.

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