Emmanuel Macron’s failure to win a legislative majority this week is the most serious defeat he has ever faced. The French president promised to end the political stalemates of the past and lead his nation through ambitious economic and political reforms. But he didn’t deliver on this legislative agenda in his first term, hoping instead to achieve it in his second. He will now have to turn to non-parliamentary means to achieve the aims of French liberals.
Most media chatter around the French legislative elections focuses on two phenomena: the historic performance of a new left-progressive alliance, the New Ecologic and Social People’s Union, and the unprecedented gains by the right-wing Rassemblement National (RN). But we shouldn’t exaggerate their significance.
The left’s success was the result of unifying divergent parties, not expanding its electorate or effecting a new political realignment. In 2017, the various left-wing parties, then campaigning against each other, garnered 25.5 percent of the vote. In 2022, these parties, now campaigning together, received 26.1 percent. The addition of a mere 150,000 ballots doesn’t suggest a rapidly expanding political movement.