These are historic days for new French president Emmanuel Macron. His fledgling party has swept to power winning an almost incredible majority of 308 parliamentarians.
The Republic on the Move (LREM) became France’s biggest political movement, achieving a parliamentary majority and igniting an incontestable renewal of French political life. Traditional political parties were heavily beaten, including the Socialist Party with only 48 MPs and the Republicans with just over one hundred MPs.
What the outcome has produced is a parliament with limited political weight.
This is the first time in 20 years that a legislative election is this unpopular. At 57 per cent, it is the highest abstention rate for the legislative elections ever recorded: Consequently, the legitimacy of Parliament is certainly not debatable, but it is different from its political representativeness. A Parliament that represents less than the majority of the electorate can be seen as weak, especially when it is elected by even fewer than the number which elected the President of the Republic.
Moreover, a significant section of the MPs who have been elected are, in addition to being novices of the national assembly, people with relatively little experience of political life. Macron has succeeded in renewing politics and knows that he now has his hands free in Parliament to implement his proposals with a consensual parliamentary majority.
With a politically weak Parliament, business and civil society will focus their lobbying efforts primarily on the Philippe Government while trying to reach out to inexperienced parliamentarians.
This political weakness of the French legislature will reinforce the leading role of President Macron and the Philippe Government. Emmanuel Macron has voluntarily reduced the number of cabinet advisers and recently appointed 45 people in his office at the Elysée, 35 more than that of the Prime Minister.
He has deliberately diminished his government’s ability to propose legislation and reinforced his ability to steer the French political agenda alone. Some polemicists speak of a technocratic coup, given the distribution of operational capacity and roles in ministerial offices.
Nor is it too wild to interpret such a development as a reinforcement of the power of the high administration and the great bodies of the French State. Macron and Philippe are themselves senior civil servants from these great bodies and have appointed a large majority of their advisers, also high-ranking officials from elite administrations such as the General Inspectorate of Finance or the Treasury DG.
In terms of lobbying, President Macron’s mandate will most likely be a particularly technical dialogue with the large central administrations, more or less driven by politics. The Elysée will have an even greater pre-eminence in political control than in the days of Francois Hollande, where the Socialist party was a powerful counter-weight.
- Formation of parliamentary groups (19-27 June):
– Groups must have a minimum of 15 members to be formed
– The group chairs are appointed to the Conference of Presidents, which plays a fundamental role in the agenda of the parliament
– MPs belonging to a group have parliamentary speaking time proportional to the size of the group
– Groups expected:
Les républicains (although this group may split)
Former Socialist party
La France insoumise/communiste
- Election of the Président de l’Assemblée nationale (26-27 June)
- Speech by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe setting out the government programme, especially the official sequencing of initiatives during Macron’s mandate (2-3 July)