France is facing an election like no other. Here’s how it works and what comes next

PARIS (AP) — French voters are called to the polls Sunday at an extraordinary moment in their political history: the first round of elections. Early parliamentary elections This could see the formation of the country’s first far-right government since the Nazi occupation in World War II – or no majority emerging at all.

The outcome of the vote, after a second round on July 7 and a rushed campaign, remains highly uncertain as three main political blocs compete: far-right national assembly, president Emmanuel Macron The middle alliance and New Popular Front Coalition This includes the centre-left, the Greens and the hard-left forces.

Here’s a closer look:

How it works?

The French system is complex and does not correlate with national support for a party. Legislators are elected by region. A parliamentary candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to be directly elected on Sunday.

If that fails, the top two contenders, along with anyone else who receives the support of more than 12.5% ​​of registered voters, advance to a second round.

In some cases, three or four people qualify for the second round, although some may step aside to improve another competitor’s chances – a tactic often used in the past to block far-right candidates.

The main party leaders are expected to unveil their strategy between the two rounds. This makes the outcome of the second round highly uncertain, depending on political maneuvering and how voters react.

More than 50 countries are heading to the polls in 2024

The far-right National Rally, which is leading all pre-election polls, hopes to win an absolute majority, or at least 289 of the 577 seats.

The National Assembly, the Chamber of Deputies, is the stronger of the two houses of the French Parliament. He has the final say on the law-making process in the Senate, which is dominated by conservatives.

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Macron said he has a presidential term until 2027. He will not step down before the end. From his state.

What is coexistence?

If a political force other than his centrist coalition obtains a majority, Macron will be forced to appoint a prime minister who belongs to that new majority.

In such a situation – called “coexistence” in France – the government would implement policies that conflict with the president’s plan.

The modern French Republic has witnessed three cases of coexistence, the last of which was during the reign of conservative President Jacques Chirac, with Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, from 1997 to 2002.

The Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament, leads the government and presents draft laws.

“In a situation of coexistence, the policies implemented are essentially those of the prime minister,” said political historian Jean Garrigues.

The president is weakened at home while cohabiting with his wife, but still retains some powers over foreign policy, European affairs and defense because he is responsible for negotiating and ratifying international treaties. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, and he holds the nuclear codes.

“It is possible for the president to temporarily block or suspend the implementation of a certain number of the prime minister’s projects, because he has the power to sign or not sign government decrees and orders,” Garrigues added.

He pointed out that “the Prime Minister has the authority to present these regulations and decrees to the National Assembly for a vote, thus bypassing the President’s hesitation.”

Who leads defense and foreign policy?

During previous cohabitations, defence and foreign policy were considered the informal “reserved domain” of the president, who was usually able to find compromises with the prime minister to allow France to speak with one voice abroad.

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However, the views of both the far-right and left-wing coalitions in these areas differ radically from Macron’s approach, and are likely to be different. A topic of tension during potential cohabitation.

Garriges said that according to the constitution, while “the president is the commander of the army, it is the prime minister who places the armed forces at his disposal.”

Garrigues added, “In the diplomatic sphere as well, the president’s scope of action is greatly restricted.”

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella said that if he became prime minister, he would Opposition to sending French forces to Ukraine – This is a possibility that Macron did not rule out. Bardella also said he would refuse to hand over to France long-range missiles and other weapons capable of hitting targets inside Russia itself.

If the leftist coalition wins the elections, this could disrupt French diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.

The New Popular Front’s platform plans to “immediately recognize the Palestinian state” and “break with the French government’s guilty support” for the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Macron had previously claimed that The Palestinian state should be recognized. In an “useful moment,” indicating that the war between Israel and Hamas does not allow such a step at the present time.

What happens if there is no majority?

The president can nominate a prime minister from the parliamentary group with the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, which has been the case for Macron’s centrist coalition since 2022.

But the National Rally has already said it would reject such an option, because it would mean the far-right government could soon be overthrown by a vote of no confidence if other political parties join together.

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The president may try to build a broad coalition from left to right, an option that seems unlikely, given the political differences.

Experts say another complicated option would be to appoint a “government of experts” that is not affiliated with political parties but would still have to be accepted by a majority in the National Assembly. Such a government is likely to deal mostly with day-to-day affairs rather than implementing major reforms.

Garrigues said that if political talks take too long amid the summer holidays and the Olympic Games being held in Paris from July 26 to August 11, a “transition period” is not ruled out, as Macron’s centrist government will remain “in charge of current affairs,” in Waiting for further decisions.

“Whatever the form of the National Assembly, the constitution of the Fifth Republic seems to be flexible enough to withstand these complex circumstances,” Mélodie Moc-Grouet, a public law expert who teaches at Sciences Po Paris, said in a written note. “Institutions are more robust than they appear, even when faced with this experimental exercise.”

But there is still another unknown in the equation: the population’s ability to accept the situation, Mock Grote writes.

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