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And if the center was the big winner of the French elections?

Photo: AFP France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal leaves after delivering a speech following the first results of the second round of France's legislative election at Matignon in Paris on July 7, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN/AFP)

Mathieu Carbasse

Published at 0:00 Analysis

  • Europe

It was believed to be moribund, on the verge of disappearing on an increasingly polarized political scene. However, like a good political phoenix, the French center managed to rise from its ashes on the evening of the second round and could even give birth to the next prime minister.

At the Élysée Palace on Sunday evening, the defeat of the presidential camp in the second round of the legislative elections tasted like victory, if not resurrection. And so what if the Macronist camp—which brings together Renaissance, Emmanuel Macron’s party, MoDem, heir to the center, and Horizons, the center-right movement of former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe—went from 245 to 168 deputies in two years. The essential thing was elsewhere for the President of the French Republic.

True to his habits, Emmanuel Macron could not help but express his relief in front of the guests with whom he spent the election night. “The central bloc, which was said to be dead, is here and alive and well,” he stressed, according to comments reported by the newspaper Le Monde. For the French president, in fact, the outgoing majority has more than limited the damage and remains an “unavoidable bloc.”

The center, which made him king in 2017 and 2022 and which was said to be clinically dead on the evening of the first round (during which it had garnered less than 22% of the votes), has therefore been resurrected. Better still, it remains more than ever the point of balance in French politics.

A successful bet for Macron

“It’s one of the lessons of Sunday’s vote,” explains Julien Tourreille, doctoral student in political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal and researcher at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair. “The Macron version of the center, which was believed to have been weakened, even wiped off the map on the evening of the European elections of June 9, still brought together almost a quarter of the voters. With scores comparable to those in the first rounds of 2017 and 2022, there is a form of stability. »

The French president has therefore won his bet, even if he will now have to work with the other parties – and review his vertical conception of power, in particular – to avoid the political blockade of the country.

In the negotiations which began on Sunday evening, the centrist current is essential in the constitution of a coalition government. Moreover, if the New Popular Front wants to gain access to the government, it will have no other option than to come to an agreement with the center. “If we add the number of deputies from moderate parties with the ecologists and socialists, the center is the main force in the country,” says Mr. Tourreille.

The French centrist current could even cast a wider net than its usual limits, believes the researcher, as it represents a more reasonable option than the extremes.

Towards a centrist prime minister ?

“France is the country of reason. Today it wants to be governed by a realistic left allied to the center,” Jacques Attali, who in the past advised Emmanuel Macron, but also the former socialist president François Mitterrand, declared on Sunday evening on the social network /p>

Words which well sum up the new balance of power which will tug French politics in the coming weeks, with the appointment of a new prime minister and the constitution of the next government.

“The Macronist center and the socialist deputies can talk to each other beyond the nuances,” explains Mr. Tourreille. “Basically, there are differences, but they are not insurmountable. There are more similarities between the Socialist Party [PS] and the Macronists than between the PS and Jean-Luc Mélenchon's La France insoumise”, a formation with which he allied himself within the New Popular Front.

It is in the ability of the Socialist Party to come to an agreement with the presidential camp that the stability of the next government will certainly lie. It is therefore from the center of the chessboard that the next prime minister risks emerging. This will require convincing socialists, environmentalists and certain communists to support it. And in this role, the former socialist president François Hollande would have the perfect profile to give guarantees to both the left and the right.

L 'British example

For once, the French could also take inspiration from the United Kingdom, where the moderate Labor Party Keir Starmer won handily hand last week's elections. In his quest for power, the latter took care to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, who was obstructing him on his left.

This is what the French center left could be tempted to do with Jean-Luc Mélenchon if he wishes to return to business, suggests Julien Tourreille. “We need to convince voters not to be tempted by extremes. The French left should learn from this. People want to see reasonable political figures in power, they want to see politicians capable of getting along, of finding compromises. »

A path that inevitably passes through the center.

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