French PM to Resign After Leftist Coalition Wins Most Seats in Elections

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, leaves the polling booth before voting for the second round of the legislative election, Sunday, July 7, 2024 in Vanves, outside Paris. (Alain Jocard, Pool via AP)

PARIS (AP) — French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced that he was going to resign Sunday after a coalition on the left came together unexpectedly ahead of France’s snap elections and won the most parliamentary seats in the vote. The surprise projections put President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance in second and the far right in third.

The lack of majority for any single alliance plunged France into political and economic turmoil. Final results are not expected until late Sunday or early Monday in the highly volatile snap election, which was called just four weeks ago in a huge gamble for Macron.

The deeply unpopular president lost control of parliament, according to the projections. Marine Le Pen’s far right drastically increased the number of seats it holds in parliament but fell far short of expectations.

The president of Le Pen’s National Rally, Jordan Bardella, claimed historic gains for the party Sunday and blamed French President Emmanuel Macron for “pushing France into uncertainty and instability.”

In a somber speech after the second-round legislative election, Jordan Bardella denounced the political maneuvering that led the National Rally to fall far short of expectations.

An unprecedented number of candidates who qualified for the runoff stepped aside to allow an opponent to go head-to-head with the National Rally candidate, increasing the chances of defeating them. Despite projections widely considered disappointing for the anti-immigration, nationalist party, it still increased its seat count in parliament to an unprecedented high, according to polling projections.

“Tonight, by deliberately taking the responsibility to paralyze our institutions, Emmanuel Macron … is consequently depriving the French people of any responses to their daily problems for many months to come,” Bardella said.

The snap legislative elections in the nuclear-armed nation and major economy will influence the war in Ukraine, global diplomacy and Europe’s economic stability.

France now faces the prospect of weeks of political machinations to determine who will be prime minister and lead the National Assembly. And Macron faces the prospect of leading the country alongside a prime minister opposed to most of his domestic policies.

French leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon called the projections an “immense relief for a majority of people in our country” and he demanded the resignation of the prime minister. Mélenchon is the most prominent of the leftist leaders who unexpectedly came together ahead of the two-round elections.

The projections, if confirmed by official counts expected later Sunday or early Monday, plunge a pillar of the European Union and its second-largest economy into intense uncertainty, with no clarity about who might partner with President Emmanuel Macron as prime minister in governing France.

For 46-year-old Macron’s centrists, the legislative elections have turned into a fiasco. He stunned France, and many in his own government, by dissolving parliament’s lower house, the National Assembly, after the far right surged in French voting for the European elections.

Macron argued that sending voters back to the ballot boxes would provide France with “clarification.” The president was gambling that with France’s fate in their hands, voters might shift from the far right and left and return to mainstream parties closer to the center — where Macron found much of the support that won him the presidency in 2017 and again in 2022. That, he hoped, would fortify his presidency for his remaining three years in office.

But rather than rally behind him, millions of voters on both the left and right of France’s increasingly polarized political landscape seized on his surprise decision as an opportunity to vent their anger and possibly sideline Macron, by saddling him with a parliament that could now largely be filled with lawmakers hostile both to him and, in particular, his pro-business policies.

Already in last weekend’s first round of balloting, voters massively backed candidates from the far-right National Rally, in even greater numbers than in voting for the European Parliament. A coalition of parties on the left took second and his centrist alliance was a distant third.

A hung parliament with no single bloc coming close to getting the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority in the National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers, would be unknown territory for modern France and usher in political turmoil.

Unlike other countries in Europe that are more accustomed to coalition governments, France doesn’t have a tradition of lawmakers from rival political camps coming together to form a working majority.

Any cobbled-together majority risks being fragile, vulnerable to no-confidence votes that could cause it to fall.

Prolonged instability could increase suggestions from his opponents that Macron should cut short his second and last term. The French Constitution prevents him from dissolving parliament again in the next 12 months, barring that as a route to possibly give France greater clarity.

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