Who will govern France? Four questions to understand what happens after the election

Could France be led by a coalition government, minority government or technical government? In the absence of a clear absolute majority in the Assemblée Nationale, there is a risk of deadlock.

By Romain Geoffroy, Adrien Sénécat and Maxime Vaudano
Jul 8, 2024

Who will govern France? That’s the burning question on everyone’s lips after the surprise second round of France’s snap parliamentary elections, in which the left-wing Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) alliance came out on top, albeit far from having an absolute majority in the Assemblée Nationale, which would enable it to claim power uncontested. What are the next steps expected in the wake of the elections? Could the country be heading for deadlock? Here are some key elements to answering these questions.

1. When does a new government have to be appointed?

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal stepped down on Monday, July 8, following the loss of a majority of seats in the Assemblée Nationale. “The fact that a government resigns after legislative elections is a convention,” noted Benjamin Morel, a public law lecturer at the Paris-Panthéon-Assas University. However, President Emmanuel Macron has asked Attal stay on as prime minister “for the moment”. With less than three weeks to go before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and no immediate clear-cut successor, Attal had already said on Sunday he was prepared to remain in the premiership “as long as duty requires” – in other words, until that successor is found.

There is, therefore, no formal timetable that requires Macron to either ask the current government to resign or appoint a new one. The president announced on Sunday that he preferred to “wait for the new Assemblée Nationale to be structured before taking the necessary decisions,” in accordance “with the republican tradition.”

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Nevertheless, Macron cannot completely ignore the new political landscape that has emerged as a result of the elections. A government based on the support of a minority in the Assemblée Nationale faces the threat of a motion of no confidence, which could be introduced as early as the first session of the new Assemblée Nationale – scheduled for July 18, as per Article 12 of the French Constitution. This motion of no confidence would have a good chance of being passed, since the presidential coalition now has only 168 seats out of 577, and it would lead to the immediate dismissal of the Attal government.

2. How is the French prime minister chosen?

Theoretically, the president has the power to appoint whomever he wishes to Matignon, the office of the prime minister. However, he cannot override the opinion of the majority of members of the Assemblée, because a government running counter to the chamber’s will could be subjected to a motion of no confidence. He is therefore expected to choose a candidate likely to receive the support of a majority – or, at least, one unlikely to be rejected by a majority.

When a political bloc obtains an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections (at least 289, out of the 577 seats in the Assemblée), the situation is simple: A prime minister drawn from its ranks must be appointed, even if they hail from a party that is opposed to the president, as was the case during the “cohabitations” under former presidents François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.

However, after this year’s election, no political group can claim such dominance. The leading bloc, the Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP), has just 182 seats, to which could be added some 13 left-wing independent MPs, giving it a relative majority representing barely a third of the seats in the Assemblée.

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