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The day after the second round of the French legislative elections, which defied expectations, the question of forming the next government remains on everyone’s lips. Indeed, no bloc seems capable of reaching an absolute majority to govern effectively.

While the left-wing alliance around the Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) came out on top with 193 seats out of 577, according to AFP, the presidential camp followed closely with 164 seats. The far-right, formed around the Rassemblement National (RN), failed and finished in third place with 143 seats.

This resulted in an unprecedented situation in the history of the 5th Republic. For now, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, whose resignation was refused by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, is expected to stay in his position for a certain period — for the Olympic Games and possibly through the rest of the summer until the parliamentary session resumes on the first Tuesday of October.

Facing an unprecedented risk of political deadlock, several scenarios remain possible — at least six at present.

The NFP at Matignon

With 193 seats, the NFP, an alliance of the main left-wing parties, quickly claimed victory on Sunday evening, as did Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of La France insoumise (LFI), and Marine Tondelier, head of Les Écologistes-EELV. Mélenchon even called on Emmanuel Macron to appoint a prime minister from the NFP just minutes after the results were announced, adding that they would only join the government to implement their policies and no one else’s. However, this configuration seems very difficult to achieve.

Indeed, a relative majority that small would require enormous compromises. Yet, it is unlikely that the other blocs would be willing to make such compromises, given the significant ideological differences between them.

One solution to circumvent this issue is to govern by decree. It is the famous article 49.3 that was regularly used under the two previous governments, both of which also had relative majorities. LFI has already warned that they would pass the main measures of the NFP program this way, such as the repeal of the pension reform.

However, such a method could discredit the left. They have consistently criticized this method of governance over the past two years, especially Mélenchon. Additionally, this method would quickly expose them to a vote of no confidence passed by an absolute majority.

To avoid this situation, the only solution is to appease at least part of the centrist camp, convincing them not to vote for such a motion. But this hinges on the essential condition that the NFP does not fall apart in the meantime.

Center-Right Coalition

Emmanuel Macron could look to the other side of the political spectrum, towards the moderate right. Specifically, to the Divers Droites MPs (25 seats) and especially Les Républicains (LR, 39 seats), who refused to follow their president Eric Ciotti and his alliance with the RN. Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has also advocated for this.

In this scenario, the presidential camp could hope to form a relative majority of just under 230 seats, allowing them to surpass the NFP. “We extend a hand to Les Républicains,” Benjamin Haddad, Ensemble MP and former right-wing party member, said on the French channel BFMTV.

In reality, the Attal and Borne governments have occasionally benefited from LR’s support, particularly regarding the pension reform. But an Ensemble-LR alliance would require continuous negotiations with other groups or governing by decree, similar to the NFP government scenario. However, it would still be subject to a vote of no confidence.

Some LR leaders, such as Xavier Bertrand, are considering this scenario, provided the Prime Minister is from their ranks. Others, like Laurent Wauquiez, reject any agreement. Wauquiez announced that he would reject “combinations to concoct unnatural majorities” and vote on texts on a case-by-case basis. This situation could potentially lead to a new split in the party that claims De Gaulle’s legacy.

Republican Arc

Another possibility could be a broad coalition of the center, moderate right, and moderate left. This model was already tested in other European countries like Germany, Italy, and Spain. This type of scenario would allow the government to secure a comfortable absolute majority, between 300 and 350 seats.

But to achieve this, intense negotiations would be necessary, on a level never before seen under the 5th Republic. The presidential nature of this regime often overshadows Parliament.

President Macron’s ally, François Bayrou, considers “possible” the formation of a majority excluding the RN and LFI, noting that the left-wing parties forming the NFP have “incompatible political attitudes and choices.” However, this would come at the cost of a significant loss of credibility for the left-wing parties that accept it. Conversely, the leader of the Les Républicains senators, Bruno Retailleau, dismissed such a hypothesis as a “pipe dream.”

Technocrat Government

To avoid the impasse, the French president could also appoint a government of technocrats. The central idea is that decisions should be based on scientific knowledge and technical analyses rather than political ideologies or electoral pressures.

Such a government would be composed of experts, following a non-partisan logic, including high-ranking civil servants, academics, diplomats, economists, engineers, or health professionals.

For the rest, this government would function normally, provided it has the support of the Assembly or, at least, is not rejected by an absolute majority. This would be another new configuration in France, although it is common in the rest of Europe.

Advocates of this type of government argue that it can lead to more efficient and rational management of public affairs. It could emphasize pragmatic, evidence-based solutions.

However, such a practice might lack democratic legitimacy since the members of the government are not elected by the people. This is why it would also remain under the threat of a vote of no confidence from one of the three blocs, supported by at least one other bloc.

Another significant obstacle is finding a non-political technocratic figure capable of forming the government and creating parliamentary coalitions for each and every text.

Instability

If no negotiation leads to one of the above configurations, France risks finding itself in a chronic deadlock. For the French president, calling new elections is not possible before July 2025, according to Article 12 of the Constitution. Under such assumptions, the current situation should remain unchanged after the summer of 2024, leading to a deep institutional crisis.

But if change does not occur within the political culture, it can be achieved within the institutions. The goal would be to rebalance the powers between the President and the National Assembly, notably by introducing proportional representation. In other words, it would involve establishing a 6th Republic, likely through a referendum, a prerogative of the president.

Another hypothesis is Emmanuel Macron’s resignation in the coming months. In this case, continuity would be ensured by the president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher (LR), until new elections are organized. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has repeatedly called for the president to follow this path.

However, this would not solve the situation. It could benefit the RN, which remains, with 125 seats, the party with the largest representation in Parliament. Facing instability, Marine Le Pen’s party could present itself as the only stable alternative.

This strategy could pay off by blaming both the left and the former majority for the deadlock due to their inability to compromise, while continuing its campaign to normalize its image among voters, the ultimate goal being the 2027 presidential election, and seeing France ultimately fall into the hands of the far-right.