French president Emmanuel Macron has lost his parliamentary majority in the second round of elections, amid gains by the far left and far right.
Macron’s centrist coalition, called ensemble, won just 245 seats in parliament on Sunday (19 June) according to exit polls — 44 seats short of the 289 it needed for stable rule.
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A far-left and green coalition called Nupes led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon came second with 145 seats.
The far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen came third with 89 seats, compared to just eight in the previous legislature and representing the highest number in the party’s history.
Meanwhile, voter turnout was below 50 percent in a sign of broad social disenchantment with French politics.
“This situation represents a risk for our country, given the risks we’re facing nationally and internationally,” French prime minister Elisabeth Borne said Sunday. “We will work as of tomorrow to build a working majority,” she added.
“We are facing a democratic shock because of a very strong break through by the National Rally,” finance minister Bruno Le Maire said.
“The rout of the presidential party is complete,” Mélenchon told supporters.
Clémentine Autain, an ally of Mélenchon, said its result was a “breakthrough”.
But Le Pen sounded more triumphant. “We have achieved our three objectives: that of making Emmanuel Macron a minority president, without control of power and that of pursuing the political recomposition essential to democratic renewal,” she said.
The outcome means Macron, who was re-elected president in April, will have to form a coalition or ad hoc alliances with conservative lawmakers to push through policies, in a situation which analysts predict could lead to a shift to the right in his politics.
A coalition with the Les Republicans right-wing party would yield a majority, but officials from the party, which won seats, said there was little chance of a coalition deal, Reuters reports.
Macron could also call a second, snap election if parliament remains blocked. But if he doesn’t win, he would have to wait another year before calling one again.
“This culture of compromise is one we will have to adopt but we must do so around clear values, ideas and political projects for France,” Le Maire said.