French elections: far-right makes record high score, Macron loses majority

French elections: far-right makes record high score, Macron loses majority
The French parliamentary election saw Macron's ruling party lose the majority in parliament, while a left-wing coalition and the far-right surged.
2 min read
French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) leader Marine Le Pen delivers a speech after the first results of the parliamentary elections, where her party earned a record-high number of seats. [DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty]

President Emmanuel Macron was on Monday faced with trying to salvage a ruling majority after voters punished his centrist 'Ensemble' alliance in France's parliamentary election, giving leftists comfortable representation and the far-right a historic number of seats.

While Ensemble secured the largest number of lawmakers in the 577-seat National Assembly, it fell below the threshold required for an absolute majority, casting severe doubts on Macron's ability to pass promised economic reforms. 

Final figures showed Macron's centrist camp got 245 seats - short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority.

Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party won its largest ever representation in the lower house with 89 seats, far beyond the far-right's previous record of 35 seats in the assembly. This is also far beyond what polls and analysts expected: the last surveys by Ipsos forecast RN would get 20 to 50 seats at most.

A resurgent left-wing bloc, Nupes, headed by the hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, meanwhile earned enough seats to form the largest opposition force.

The vote was a painful setback for Macron, 44, who was re-elected in April and wants to deepen European Union integration, raise the retirement age and inject new life into France's nuclear industry.

There is no set script in France for how things will unfold.

Macron's options include forming a ruling coalition or presiding over a minority government that has to enter into negotiations with opponents on a bill-by-bill basis. The alternative if no agreement can be found is for the euro zone's second biggest economy to be plunged into paralysis.

"We will be working from tomorrow towards forming a majority of action ... to guarantee stability for our country and carry out the necessary reforms," Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said as results filtered through late on Sunday.

Macron became in April the first French president in two decades to win a second term, as voters rallied to keep the far-right out of power.

But, seen as out of touch by many voters, he presides over a deeply disenchanted and divided country where support for populist parties on the right and left has surged.