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A historic election for France

Photo: Olivier Chassignole Agence France-Presse French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal was visiting Ternay, eastern France, on Friday to support outgoing MPs and candidates from his party, Renaissance, ahead of the upcoming elections.

At 24 hours of the first round, all analysts agree, these legislative elections are blowing like a wind of regime change. Some even go so far as to compare them to the coming to power of François Mitterrand in 1981 and the election of the first left-wing president of the Fifth Republic.

The parallel is not an exaggeration. Last February, in Le Figaro, the research director of the Ipsos France polling institute, Mathieu Gallard, noted many points in common between the campaign of François Mitterrand in 1981 and that of Marine Le Pen for 2027. At the time, no one was waiting for hasty legislative elections to be called. The specialist emphasized in particular that, like the Socialist Party in 1981, the National Rally applied “a strategy of demonization”.

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Let us remember these campaign posters showing the socialist leader against the backdrop of a peaceful village in the French countryside while his opponents predicted the arrival of Russian tanks on the Champs-Élysées. Hadn't Mitterrand allied himself with the Communist Party, a totalitarian party which defended the gulags to the end ? The slogan of the left in 1981, “The quiet force”, could also be that of Jordan Bardella who, from his performance in front of the bosses of France (MEDEF) to Thursday's debate against Gabriel Attal (Renaissance) and Olivier Faure (LFI), has never ceased to reassure about his program by reporting his most radical proposals such as the repeal of the pension reform or the abolition of VAT on basic necessities. In 1981, it took two years and three devaluations of the franc for Mitterrand to finally put his economic program under wraps.

What a majority ?

As in 1981, this demonization could also be about to bear fruit. This was confirmed this week by the former vice-president of the SOFRES institute, Jérôme Jaffré. Certainly, forecasts are always very risky in a two-round legislative election which in reality represents the addition of 577 local elections. Especially since participation is expected to be the highest since 1991 — more than 2 million proxies having been signed by those who will not be able to travel on Sunday, a record!

This does not prevent Jérôme Jaffré from declaring in Le Figarothat “the RN has a real chance of obtaining an absolute majority.” According to him and several other analysts, in the first round, the sanction for the government risks being violent, with 60% of voters believing that this election is first and foremost “a referendum against the policies of Emmanuel Macron.”

According to the IFOP, only 58% of Macronist voters in the first round of the 2022 presidential election are preparing to vote again in the same way on Sunday. It is difficult to imagine that the predictions of “civil war” expressed in recent days by a president who has become inaudible could reverse the situation. On the contrary, given the lack of local roots of the Renaissance candidates, several predict a real massacre for the majority and dozens of RN elected officials in the first round. This requires obtaining 50% of the votes representing at least 25% of registered voters. Only candidates who obtained the vote of 12.5% ​​of registered voters will be able to stand again in the second round, which opens the door to holding “triangulars”.

The “beaver strategy”

“In the first round you choose, in the second you eliminate”, goes the saying. According to an Odoxa poll, 47% of those questioned said they were ready to block the New Popular Front (NFP), compared to only 41% for the RN. What the late essayist Laurent Bouvet had called the “beaver strategy”, which consisted of blocking the RN, today seems to work in the opposite direction and harm the NFP. In 1962, Jaffré recalls, de Gaulle had obtained only 35% of the votes in the first round, which did not prevent him from winning in the second.

However, even if the RN also worries the financial markets, the debates have shown that it is the left which, by far, presented the most expensive economic program. Despite the good performance of its representatives in the debates on Tuesday and Thursday, its unity – which extends from former President François Hollande to the New Anti-Capitalist Party – appears more than fragile. This was illustrated by the fierce controversy over his possible candidate for the post of prime minister. While François Hollande demanded that the sulphurous Jean-Luc Mélenchon “shut up”, his supporters recalled that since LFI represents the majority in the NFP, if it wins, it is Mélenchon's party which will choose, that like it or not, the candidate for Matignon.

Some even hypothesize that Jean-Luc Mélenchon would not really want to win on July 7. By posing as leader of the opposition to the RN, the “maximum leader” would probably have a better chance of winning against Marine Le Pen in 2027.

Thing Certainly, abstention could play a major role in this election. Especially in the camp of Macronist voters, the president having continued in his numerous interventions to pose as a candidate of reason, sending back to back “the extremes”. Even if no instructions came out of the meeting held this week on this subject, several government figures, such as Gérald Darmanin and Yaël Braun-Pivet, have already announced that they would practice “neither nor” (neither RN nor NFP) . However, it would seem that, if we rely on polls, 71% of Renaissance supporters wish to block the NFP, compared to only 65% ​​for the RN.

“A combat sport”

Whether the RN is in the majority or not, cohabitation between a president disowned by voters and a pumped-up RN promises to be tumultuous. It was François Mitterrand’s former advisor Jacques Attali who defined cohabitation as “a combat sport”. Even more so between a fiery young prime minister, but without ministerial experience, and a president who will have nothing more to lose since he will not be able to run again. Fortunately, case law exists taking into account the three cohabitations that France experienced under the Fifth Republic: those of Mitterrand-Chirac in 1986, Mitterrand-Balladur in 1993 and Chirac-Jospin in 1997.

Although Article 20 of the Constitution states that “the Government determines and conducts the policy of the Nation,” its limitations are numerous. Without presidential authorization, the Prime Minister cannot hold a referendum, dissolve the Assembly, command the armies alone, sign an international treaty, or amend the Constitution. While the President can hardly refuse to promulgate laws, Jacques Chirac learned to his cost that he could refuse to sign his ordinances. At the time, those aimed at privatizing public companies had been rejected. Mitterrand had also reserved for himself a third of the appointments in the major state bodies.

But the weakness of his camp could also force the president to make accommodations. The one who assured the French that he would remain in office until 2027 also has an interest in not proving to them that he does not respect their choice and that nothing can change until Marine Le Pen gives him not succeeded.

An ungovernable country ?

In the event of absence of a majority in the chamber, the situation would be even more complex. This is why Jordan Bardella has already announced that he would not be prime minister if he was not given a majority. Like the Fourth Republic, the country could then become ungovernable, especially since new legislative elections cannot be held for a year. Once the country is plunged into confusion, it is difficult to see how the president can maintain his position. “The president will therefore only have to resign to potentially emerge from a political crisis,” concluded Marine Le Pen.

Two weeks before the Olympic Games, however, it would be surprising if anyone had any interest in provoking a major political crisis. At least until the fall. The police nevertheless expect major demonstrations at the end of the first and second rounds. Many unions have already called “to resist” the choice that could emerge from the ballot boxes in the coming days. “We are preparing to manage all configurations,” assured the Paris police prefect, Laurent Nuñez.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116