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Who are the real winners of the French parliamentary elections?

In his attempt to prevent a Le Pen victory at all costs, Emmanuel Macron has empowered the other anti-establishment force

Mad political scientist Emmanuel Macron’s little experiment blew up in his face. And his lab partner has already called for his resignation if the French president fails to comply with the leftist leader’s demands. He’s now in a hostage situation of his own making. 

There’s a statue in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada that has left an impression on me from the time I was a child. Called the “Miracle Mile,” it commemorates a legendary race held in 1954 at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium between the two men at the time known for breaking the four-minute mile: England’s Roger Bannister and Australia’s John Landy. At the very end of the race, Landy, who was in the lead, looked over one shoulder for his opponent, who proceeded to blow past him on the other and win. “Always run your own race, right to the end,” my late, sports specialist father told me as we stared at the monument. “Because that’s the only thing that you can really control.” Too bad that Macron didn’t learn the same lesson. 

Instead, having failed to seduce French voters in the first round of voting on platform and record alone, with a third place finish for Team Macron’s establishment “Together” party, he stopped running his own race and started looking around.

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Macron and his Prime Minister Gabriel Attal decided that the anti-establishment, right-wing National Rally party – which dominated the popular vote in the first round – had to be denied a majority in the second round at all costs. So they figured that, by pulling candidates in districts where a split with the anti-establishment left would lead to a seat for the National Rally, they could block its parliamentary leader, Marine Le Pen. And the anti-establishment, left-wing New Popular Front coalition and its de facto leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon, agreed to do the same. 

They’d band together in a coalition of losers to beat the frontrunner. Paris is hosting the Olympic Games later this month. It would be like if all the losers in the women’s gymnastics event were allowed to decide that they’d pick one single loser among them to go up against Simone Biles – and then give all their loser point scores to that individual to defeat her. 

But what ended up actually happening is that, as a result of this strategy, there were more districts left with just a choice between the two anti-establishment candidates – on the left and the right – than there were districts that left voters with a choice between Team Macron and Team Le Pen. 

The result? A hung parliament with no single party having anywhere near a majority of 289 seats. The New Popular Front leftists have 182, Macron’s “Together” has 168, and National Rally has 143. If you crunch the numbers, for any one of these parties to get enough votes on any given issue to reach a parliamentary majority is going to be an uphill battle. And to give you an idea of how steep the climb could end up being, Team Macron members were already badmouthing their leftist brethren in opportunism on the left, and refusing to work with them, before the results had even started to come in. 

As customs dictate, Macron’s Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has already offered his resignation, but may hang around until a new government emerges. The nature and leadership of this isn’t a given because relationships born of desperation that lead to arranged marriages – or even arranged one-night stands for the purpose of a vote on any given issue – aren’t exactly known to be raging successes. 

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Already, Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of the bloc within the New Popular Front with by far the most seats, has called on Macron to offer his team the prime ministership – or else just resign himself. Empowered by Macron’s strategy, Melenchon is already talking like he wants to see Attal’s furniture loaded up in the truck and his clothes tossed out on the lawn. 

All this just to defeat the anti-establishment right – which still managed to win the popular vote. The French voted for one thing and got exactly the opposite. Yep, you read that right. Just think about that and what it means for democracy and the claim that government is representative of the people’s will. When you look at the popular vote in the second round – the sum total of each individual French ballot cast – it was actually a landslide National Rally victory with over 10 million votes. The New Popular Front and Macron’s Together parties each came in at 6 million and change. 

There’s a lot that’s still up in the air right now but one thing that the French did achieve is that they revoked Macron’s and the establishment’s blank check so they can no longer just ram things through parliament at will with a majority. The French have been giving off a vibe suggesting that they’re fed up with the establishment. And that’s now been clearly confirmed, however you cut it. So it’s a big loss for Macron, who was so obsessively looking over his right shoulder that he ended up being passed on the anti-establishment left. 

 

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