When the results began to emerge on Sunday evening, it was clear that French voters had leveled a humiliating rebuke of Emmanuel Macron’s political party in regional elections Less than a year before the presidential election.
Opponents from the “old political world” rejoiced Macron in 2017 for winning the presidency. But in the president’s camp, the mood was pessimistic.
“The movement is facing a huge challenge,” said Roland Leskeur, a member of parliament for Macron’s centrist party. We’re five years old, and we don’t have a lot of elected officials on Earth. . . did not crystallize.”
French President La République en Marche (LREM), who defeated existing left and right parties to win control of the National Assembly four years ago, received about 7 percent of the total vote on Sunday – compared with an estimated 38 percent for center-right parties and 34 percent for socialists and others on the left.
Regional governments have limited powers, particularly over transportation and education policy, but the weekend winners sought to portray the vote as a rehearsal for next year’s elections and emphasized issues of national concern such as law and order and the environment.
Xavier Bertrand, the center-right winner in the northern Hauts-de-France region, has reiterated his desire to challenge Macron for the presidency next year. “This result gives me the strength to go and ask for the support of all the French,” he said.
“There is no republic in the Marche,” said an adviser to one of Macron’s rivals, who predicted Macron would become an “arc in French politics.”
Analysts have warned that the defeat, while embarrassing, is unlikely to do lasting damage to Macron’s campaign for re-election within 10 months.
They stressed that Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally – seen so far as Macron’s main rival for the presidency, as it was in 2017, also underperformed, failing to win control of a single regional council by about 20 percent. of the national vote. They also highlighted the record low turnout rate – with only a third of French voters casting their ballots.
“This [the poor LREM showing] “It will not necessarily be a problem in national elections, when there is a very strong focus on personalities in the campaign,” said Christelle Laguerre, associate professor of politics at the University of Avignon.
“[Macron’s] “LREM has really struggled to get involved in elections other than the presidential one,” said Emile Leclerc, director of research at polling group Odoxa. But it is a presidential system. . . And Macron today is more and more popular – Nearly 50 percent in positive reviews الآراءAnd it’s high.”
But even Macron’s supporters do not deny the importance of defeating the regional elections or the need to rebuild LREM as an effective electoral machine.
Macron’s rebellious 2017 campaign as a “neither right nor left” candidate and his victory in the presidential election at the age of 39 carried French politics into uncharted waters from which it has not yet emerged.
If Macron is re-elected next year, no one knows whether voters will follow the practices of the past 20 years, namely choosing a National Assembly dominated by the president’s party to carry out his agenda. If they do not, this will force Macron to nominate a prime minister from a different political group, in a system known as “coexistence”.
Liskeur was cautiously optimistic. “Hopefully, by the time (the presidential election), people will be excited again,” he said. The most likely scenario is that there will be a majority [for the president] But it will be more fragmented than the ones we had in 2017.”
“It will be more complicated than it was at the time,” he reckons.
Whatever happens to Macron, the future of his LREM party is uncertain. It could disappear in the event of defeat next year, or fade a few years later after two presidential terms allowed by the constitution.
Macron has not helped weaken his newly formed party after winning its first election in 2017 to provide himself with advisers, ministers and deputies. And key members of his government – including Prime Minister Jean Castex and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian – were not drawn from the traditional parties of the right and left, undermining the idea that his party made a fresh start from the past.
“It was not really a political party that broke into French politics, but an individual – Emmanuel Macron,” said Leclerc of Odoxa. “If there is no Emmanuel Macron, if he leaves French politics, the party will collapse completely.”