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French President Macron faces an uphill battle to a second term


A bit of recent American history helps to show the meaning of elections in France. President Barack Obama got a lot of legislation through Congress after his election. And then his party lost the House, and he achieved less. President Donald Trump got a big tax cut through Congress. And then his party lost the House, and he achieved less. French President Emmanuel Macron just won reelection. But in legislative elections on a separate day, his party lost its majority in the parliament. Reporter Rebecca Rosman is in Paris. Welcome.


INSKEEP: How bad is the news from Macron's party?

ROSMAN: It's pretty bad. I mean, if you look at the numbers at first glance, his party, his coalition did get more seats than any other party. But what he really needed was an absolute majority of seats to keep this sweeping power that he had during his first term in office. And he did not get that. He actually lost over a third of his seats. And without this majority, he's going to have a lot of trouble pushing through key reforms, most notably reforming the pension system. He really wants to focus on raising the retirement age from 62 to 65, overhauling the current system. But he's going to have a lot of trouble doing that now. Some suggest he may try and form a coalition with the center right to make up for those lost seats.

INSKEEP: Well, who gained as Macron's party lost?

ROSMAN: I would say that there were two big winners here. So the first is this newly formed left-wing coalition. They are called Nupes. They got the second-highest number of votes, meaning they are now the biggest opposition against Macron. So they are led by the far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon. He came in third place in April's presidential elections. And they ran a really solid campaign based on domestic concerns, including raising the minimum wage to 1,500 euros a month, lowering retirement from 62 to 60 and freezing energy prices. And as we all know, inflation is a big issue right now, not just in France, but all over the world. And the second big winner is Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party. So as you may recall, Le Pen faced Macron in April's presidential elections, in which she did pretty well. This time around, in the legislative elections, she got 89 seats, which is by far the most seats her party has ever won. So let's listen to what she had to say about that last night.


MARINE LE PEN: (Non-English language spoken).

ROSMAN: So she's saying that her party achieved its goals, the main one being taking away Macron's majority, thus this sweeping power of his, which she says he would have used and abused. And she also says, France is finally a democracy again.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm trying to figure out what these results mean, Rebecca, because, of course, Americans pay attention to France for many reasons, one of them being it's an important U.S. ally. It's deeply involved in the conflict against Ukraine, just to give one example. We've been watching the rise of the far right in France from over here. What does it mean that both the left and the right gained against Macron, who seems to be in the center?

ROSMAN: Well, I would say it's unclear right now, you know? This is an unprecedented situation. A president hasn't run without a majority in 20 years in France. And some analysts say that he will continue to lean slightly to the right because of, like I mentioned earlier, this coalition he may form with the center right - that is if they're willing to do so. But the left opposition is stronger than ever. And that can't be ignored either, along with, as you mentioned, the far right. They are the strongest single party in parliament now. In terms of international implications, I think what this means is Macron may have to focus on domestic issues and less on foreign policy than he has, which he may not like because he's been a big, key negotiating figure with Ukraine and Russia.

INSKEEP: Reporter Rebecca Rosman is in Paris. Thanks.

ROSMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Rebecca Rosman