Large parliamentary majority leaves Macron holding all the cards

June 20, 2017 - 9:45

Emmanuel Macron’s outsider bid to dynamite traditional French party politics appears to have paid off in record time.

His fledgling centrist movement and its allies were on course to win a clear parliament majority as results were being counted in the legislative elections on Sunday night.
Just over a year after Macron founded a political movement intended to be “neither right nor left”, he has succeeded in seriously limiting the traditional left and right parties of government.

But now that Macron’s centrist grouping has an absolute majority, the stakes could not be higher for the new president and all the cards are in his hands. He has promised a new honest and irreproachable political class, to streamline the state and to loosen strict labor laws in favor of flexibility for businesses, which he has argued will transform the labor market and reduce unemployment. Expectations are high and there is nowhere for him to hide.
The historic low turnout in the election – around 43% – casts a shadow over the results. A year ago when Macron announced he would run for president, he said he would “end the divorce between the people and those in charge”. On Sunday, voter abstention was particularly high in working class and low-income areas and among young people, raising more questions about France’s social divide.

President has seriously limited traditional left and right parties as high abstention rate casts shadow.

 First challenges
One of the new parliament’s first challenges will be a vote on powers that would enable Macron use executive decrees to push through changes to employment rules and conditions this autumn.
Macron’s plans to loosen labor laws – including potentially setting minimum and maximum compensation awards in unfair dismissal cases – are contentious. The previous Socialist government forced through labor changes by decree last year after street protests led by the leftwing CGT union. Macron’s Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, has said the new government will go further to rapidly “modernize” labor laws. Philippe argued that overhauling France’s social model of welfare protections was “essential and urgent”. There will be delicate negotiations with trade unions first.
“There has never been such a paradox between a high concentration of power and strong tensions and expectations in terms of changes,” Laurent Berger, head of France largest trade union, the CFDT, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

A key question is what sort of opposition Macron will face, and who will lead it. In the new parliament, opposition will not come from one single force but will be spread between several fractured parties. The French right, although it will get the second most seats, will have a small presence and many of its MPs are likely to break off and support Macron. Likewise, several of the few Socialists still in parliament will back Macron’s proposed new labor laws.

 Frontal opposition
The hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s political movement, France Unbowed, will have a parliamentary group intent on providing what it calls “frontal opposition”. Marine Le Pen will be vocal but will not have enough members of parliament to form her own far-right group.
France’s upper house, the Senate, currently led by the right, could play a vocal role. Certain regional politicians, such as Xavier Bertrand in northern France, will also try to position themselves as opposition forces.

“The debate must always happen in parliament, otherwise it ends up in the street,” the rightwing senate leader Gérard Larcher said recently, suggesting that demonstrators with placards could take over from opposition politicians.
It is too early to say whether Macron’s labor law changes will spark a street protest movement. The pressure is on the government’s negotiation process with trade unions over the coming weeks.
(Source: The Guardian)

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