Listen to the article

Following President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement of the dissolution of the National Assembly on Sunday evening and the scheduling of the two-round legislative elections on June 30th and July 7th, France is bracing for a period of deep political uncertainty. His move follows the European elections, marked by a landslide victory for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), which secured 31.5% of the votes compared to 14.5% for the presidential camp.

Faced with this setback, the French president has chosen to dissolve the National Assembly, a first in French political history following European elections. What strategic considerations lie behind the president’s bold maneuver? Is it a carefully crafted political strategy? How does he intend to overcome the disrepute currently looming over his presidency? Let’s focus on five possible scenarios following the legislative elections.

In this context, it should be noted that under the Fifth Republic, since 1958, the National Assembly has been dissolved six times in accordance with Article 12 of the Constitution. The first two dissolutions occurred during General de Gaulle’s presidency in 1962 and 1968, both resulting in decisive victories for the Gaullist camp. François Mitterrand also invoked this presidential prerogative twice: in 1981, leading to an absolute majority for the Socialist Party (PS), and in 1988, which only secured a relative majority. The most recent dissolution before the one announced on Sunday evening was in 1997, during Jacques Chirac’s presidency, which ended in a significant setback for the president and a victory for the leftist coalition led by Lionel Jospin.

First scenario: Macron’s camp secures an absolute majority

In the first, somehow unlikely, scenario, the French president would succeed in his risky gamble and sway public opinion. He may gain from the divisions within the left-wing New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) and seek to woo their support by focusing his campaign on issues of social concerns. However, this scenario is unlikely to unfold, as achieving such a score would likely require him to rally what he calls the “republican camp,” which includes the PS and the Republicans (moderate Gaullist-Chirac right wing). The PS rather favors the unity of the left under the NUPES banner, notably with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party, La France Insoumise. Given the tri-polarization of the French electorate between the RN, Macron’s camp, and the left, such a scenario would be quite difficult to materialize.

Second scenario: Macron’s camp Secures a Relative Majority

In a second and slightly more plausible scenario, the pro-Macron camp would manage to maintain its narrow majority in the National Assembly. This would place the presidential camp in a familiar position, requiring continued negotiations with diverse parties to advance legislative agendas or seek alliances for an absolute majority coalition. Thus far, parties within the “republican camp” as highlighted by Emmanuel Macron, notably the Republicans (LR) and the Socialist Party (PS) advocating for left-wing unity, have resisted such propositions. The likelihood of a lasting alliance and coalition building seems unlikely. However, Renaissance (the presidential camp) remains optimistic, asserting that no pro-Macron candidate will compete against incumbent candidates from the “republican camp”. This approach aims to prevent the dissolution from being viewed as a futile gesture.

Third scenario: The left-wing coalition secures a majority

A highly improbable third scenario would see the left-wing coalition, united under the NUPES banner, securing a majority in the National Assembly, whether relative or absolute. The President of the Republic would then be compelled to appoint a Prime Minister from NUPES, initiating a period of difficult cohabitation. If the majority is relative, the left-wing coalition would encounter similar challenges, compounded by the inherent disagreements of cohabitation and internal dissent among the various coalition parties. If the majority is absolute, the left-wing coalition could comfortably pass bills in the National Assembly, yet without resolving the disagreements stemming from cohabitation and a coalition of four different parties.

Currently, NUPES is deeply divided, and the left-wing coalition seems very fragile. In the recent European elections, each party within NUPES ran separately, highlighting profound divergences. However, according to information obtained by BFMTV, a meeting between the four party leaders of the left-wing coalition took place on Monday at 4 p.m. (Paris time). Nonetheless, should a left-wing coalition emerge in the legislative elections, they would still need to effectively challenge both the presidential camp and the National Rally, which is far from being guaranteed.

Fourth Scenario: National Rally Secures Relative Majority

In this fourth likely scenario, the National Rally (RN) led by Marine Le Pen would secure a relative majority in the National Assembly. Consequently, the President of the Republic would be forced to appoint a Prime Minister from within the RN ranks, potentially either Marine Le Pen herself or Jordan Bardella, RN’s president. In this scenario, the RN would encounter challenges similar to those faced by the Macron’s camp in forming an absolute majority, given that the latter currently holds only a relative majority in the Assembly. France would then enter a state of deadlock, characterized by the instability of a relative parliamentary majority and a problematic cohabitation.

Moreover, Article 12 of the Constitution stipulates that a dissolution cannot occur within a year. If the margin between the relative and absolute majorities is narrow, the RN may seek to sway certain parliamentarians to their side to comfortably govern with an absolute majority. However, should the gap be too wide, the RN might contemplate an alliance with the Republicans (LR), potentially leading to internal divisions within that party, as some members may be enticed by the RN’s propositions. Alternatively, the RN could consider aligning with Reconquête, led by Éric Zemmour . Nevertheless, such an alliance would require a careful evaluation of risks, given that Reconquête is unfavorably viewed as diehard extremists by the electorate, a fact that could backfire on the RN’s progress in public opinion.

These alliances may crystallize post-election, or even before the ballot. In fact, according to information obtained by Le Monde, a meeting between Marion Maréchal (a former RN member and niece of Marine Le Pen), Marine Le Pen, and Jordan Bardella took place on Monday at 5 PM (Paris time). According to information obtained by LCI, Marion Maréchal attended the meeting in her personal capacity and not as a representative of her party, perhaps with a view to a return to the RN. Eric Zemmour, on the other hand, only learned of the meeting through the media. What is behind this meeting, which won’t be the last? Only time will tell…

Fifth scenario: National Rally wins an absolute majority

In a plausible fifth scenario, the National Rally could secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly. This outcome would compel the President of the Republic to appoint a Prime Minister from the RN, likely Marine Le Pen or Jordan Bardella, ushering in a period of difficult cohabitation. With the RN in control of Parliament, legislative processes would be straightforward, allowing for the smooth passage of laws. However, significant friction and challenging compromises between the pro-Macron and the RN would be inevitable, reminiscent of the turbulent Mitterrand-Chirac or Chirac-Jospin cohabitations. Despite these difficulties, the President would retain authority over defense and foreign affairs, areas traditionally reserved for the head of state.

Is Macron allowing the National Rally to govern to discredit them prior to the 2027 elections?

Several observers believe that a possible strategy of the President of the Republic, by dissolving the National Assembly and calling for early legislative elections, would be to let the National Rally govern and grapple with the complexities of governance, possibly leading to a scenario of cohabitation fraught with challenges. Some argue that this tactic might serve as a mixed blessing from the presidential camp, aimed at tarnishing the RN’s credibility and halting its momentum towards the 2027 presidential election.

But, the question remains: is this a credible scenario, and could it yield the desired outcome? If the scenario proves credible and the RN’s reputation takes a hit, it’s essential to recognize that the Macron’s camp won’t emerge unscathed either. They too would be implicated in the governance failures, diminishing their prospects for 2027. However, betting on this hypothesis is not without risks. The RN could seize the opportunity to dispel criticism by demonstrating their ability to govern effectively. Regardless, it’s a high-stakes gamble for Emmanuel Macron.