French legislative elections, second round — why they matter | News | DW
French voters are preparing to vote again on Sunday, after reappointing Emmanuel Macron in April and taking part in the first round of legislative elections last weekend.
The main battle in the second round will be between Macron’s centrist Ensemble and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing NUPES.
Last weekend’s poll put Ensemble ahead of NUPES, but the advantage was slim: Ensemble won 25.75% of the popular vote against NUPES’ 25.66% nationally. Thanks to France’s electoral system, however, the result will not be decided until this Sunday when the top two candidates from nearly all 577 constituencies face off.
What is at stake for Macron?
Most analysts expect Macron’s bloc to win the knockout round by pushing more moderate voters away from the far-left NUPES. Even some leftists might turn away from Melenchon, political science researcher Bruno Cautres told DW.
“They think Melenchon is too left-wing and are put off by his stance on international alliances and his historical closeness to Russian leader Vladimir Putin,” Cautres said ahead of the initial vote.
Even so, Macron could lose his parliamentary majority and possibly be forced into a coalition government with right-wing parties, undoing his far-reaching economic reform plans.
The 44-year-old president wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65, cut taxes and further deregulate the labor market. He also pledged to build more nuclear power plants and build an economy that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
What is at stake for Melenchon?
Melenchon, a former Trotskyist who repeatedly calls Macron “the president of the rich”, denounced his opponent’s plans as “wrong” while urging his voters to vote on Sunday.
“In view of this result and the extraordinary opportunity it represents for our personal lives and the future of our common homeland, I call on our people to storm the ballot box next Sunday to reject, once and for all , the disastrous projects of the majority of Mr. Macron, “said the septuagenarian.
The far-left alliance NUPES plans to lower the retirement age to 60, raise the minimum wage and cap food and energy prices. Their program also includes the nationalization of the banking and energy sectors and pressure on the European Central Bank to cancel the debt of all EU states.
Melenchon hopes to become French prime minister and lead a government with Macron still in power as president – an arrangement known in France as “cohabitation”. Although polls suggest this goal is highly unlikely, it is not mathematically impossible.
What are the challenges for the EU and the world?
A French government led by Melenchon could shake the foundations of the EU at a time of unprecedented instability for the European bloc. The war in Ukraine, combined with the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, has EU politicians scrambling to address security fears and escalating economic problems.
Unity between Paris and Berlin is crucial for formulating and implementing common European policies. NUPES programs, by their own admission, would cost hundreds of billions of euros a year and are virtually guaranteed to spark outrage in fiscally conservative Germany. Melenchon also pledged to reconsider France’s membership in NATO, although he has given up on his intention to leave the alliance altogether.
On the other hand, Melenchon is seen as a beacon of hope for the European and global left and enjoys popularity among young voters in France. Its proponents argue that sweeping changes are needed to bring the world back from the brink and break the power of financial elites.
The vote is also likely to show growing political apathy in France. The voter turnout below 50% last Sunday was the worst ever recorded in France during a first round of legislative elections. Typically, turnout in the second round is even lower, with some voters unwilling to participate after their party or candidate of choice is eliminated in the first round.
Edited by: Mark Hallam