Legislative elections: a third round or a systemic byproduct of the presidential elections’ second round?
The first round of the presidential elections has been the ultimate consecration of tripartism. The three main candidates – backed by the LREM, RN and LFI parties – have largely overshadowed the other nine candidates and left them with little hope for the June legislative elections. To start off the legislative campaign, the three dominant parties have chosen radically different approaches and communication tactics. Jean-Luc Mélenchon has dedicated considerable energy to spread the idea of a “third round”, which would force a cohabitation upon the newly elected president and therefore allow him to become Prime Minister. Emmanuel Macron, and surprisingly enough Marine Le Pen, still believe in what the two-round system usually entails: an overwhelming advantage for the presidential majority. All of this resulted in radically different approaches to the campaign.
The legislatives, 3rd round of the presidential election? Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s hopes
On the night of the first round, the LFI candidate declared his intention to turn the legislatives elections into a true “third-round”. In between the two rounds of the presidential elections, he urged the French to “appoint him prime Minister by electing a majority of members of Parliament from La France Insoumise during this “third round”. During an interview on BFMTV, the failed candidate looked to destroy this sacrosanct second round, which he was not participating in. By doing so, he was also strengthening his plan for a new institutional balance. A small ballot, a great step towards the 6th Republic.
On the night of the second round, Jean-Luc Mélenchon turned his back on what happened in 2017 and changed strategies. To bring substance to his ambitions and answer the expectations of a large part of the “people of the left”, Mélenchon finally called for an union of leftish parties. This alliance gave way to heated discussions, each of them being excellent opportunities to communicate. Each discussion session and each new agreement became their own events, broadcasted all over French media. And each of these events were an opportunity for the party representatives to speak publicly. The journalists were not camping in front of the Elysée waiting for the new Prime Minister… they were sitting in front of the headquarters of La France Insoumise, waiting for white smoke. All this tension and suspense allowed the left to overshadow other parties by truly dominating the mediatic stage. The highlight of this communication: the party’s leadership convention in Aubervilliers on May 7th. With impactful images relayed all over social media, news broadcasts et information channels, a united left was shown. A first since the pluralist left of 1997. The Nouvelle Union Populaire, écologique et sociale (NUPES) was brought to fruition.
The legislatives, a mere byproduct of the second round? Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen’s bet
In order to win the legislatives, Emmanuel Macron has remained faithful to the historical tradition and chose to rely on the momentum brought by his victory. This posture has been used in the 5 mandates that followed the introduction of the quinquennat, but also in 1981 and 1988 after Francois Mitterrand dissolved the Assemblée Nationale, as well as in 1962 when Charles De Gaulle almost unanimously won his referendum. Therefore, on the night of his victory, the newly elected President remained completely silent on the upcoming legislative elections. On first glance, priority was given to reorganizing the majority in order to choose who would run in the upcoming election.
LREM also led bitter negotiations with its allies to create their own single group, even though they did not make nearly as much noise as the ones from NUPES. Named Ensemble, the coalition brought under the same colors LREM, Modem, Horizons, Agir and others small parties originating from the left and the greens. With one ambition: “to keep amplifying the political movement”. Simultaneously, LREM discretely, if not inadvertently, announced its intention to rebrand and adopt the name of their European Group: Renaissance. But it failed to bring any momentum, just as the presidential election did: therefore, this can simply be considered as a move to make the most of the two-round system.
On her hand, on April 22nd, Marine Le Pen started by aiming high. She was looking to “win the great legislative battle” by capitalizing on the never-seen-before score of her party: 13,5 million votes. The next morning however, her communication strategy swiftly changed: the failed candidate conspicuously left on holiday for two weeks. Soon afterwards, she declared that Emmanuel Macron would be winning the majority, thus confirming the claims of Jordan Bardella, acting president of the party. Moreover, they both claimed that seeing the political framework, their goal was simply to elect 15 members of parliament, the minimum amount required to create a parliamentary group. Modesty and practicality had been the roots of their strategy, which had beared fruit during the presidential elections: these small parliamentary aspirations would therefore allow them to claim victory on the night of the results. Moreover, the Rassemblement National refused any alliance with Reconquête!, thus confirming that the party would not fight for victory in June 2022, accepting the inevitable victory of the presidential majority.
But according to the first surveys, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen predictions are more likely to play out than Jean-Luc Mélenchon. However, by solely relying on the “majoritarian” effect, the President might trigger a wave of abstentionism and find himself leading a majority without clear support from the voters. With one big risk: that the third round will not happen in the ballots, but in the streets.