France’s Year of the Olympics? Or of Political Pandemonium?

Sick of American politics? Check out the chaos in France.

In the immediate wake of crushing losses for his centrist party during June’s European Parliamentary elections, President Emmanuel Macron went rogue by dissolving the Assemblée nationale (the equivalent of our House of Representatives) and calling for a snap election. Macron’s decision came as a shock, even to members of his party. Imagine the chaos. In just under three weeks, the 577 elected députés have had to vacate their offices, launch reelection campaigns, and form new coalitions. Overseas voting began on Wednesday, and this Sunday a record turnout is expected in the Hexagone for Round One of the two-round voting process.

In the interest of clarity, by Chappatte
Macron’s silhouette: “In the interest of clarity…”
by Chappatte

A Dangerous Bet

Macron is two years into his second 5-year term as President. After his first victory in 2017, his party and coalition partners nailed down a strong majority with 350 legislative seats. But, in 2022, while Macron prevailed in the presidential race, his legislative counterparts fared far worse. When the dust settled, he’d lost his majority and has since had difficulty turning his plans into action. Macron is betting that a legislative turnover will restore his majority standing, and perhaps more importantly, rein in the rise of the far right.

A few days after his decision, Macron held a press conference to clarify his reasoning. Given the rapid timeline, many viewed the event as a quasi-campaign-kickoff speech. Macron, who is considered a centrist, admitted to having made some missteps but maintained that placing power in the hands of extremists on either side of the political spectrum would be ruinous for the French people and ultimately damage France’s international standing.

Paths to victory, by Truant
Macron’s perceived paths to victory, by Truant

A Scramble of Alliances

To many, Macron’s “clarification” appears vague and ill-founded, leaving the analysts and pundits to speculate. The French President is taking a huge risk, putting his faith in « femmes et hommes de bonne volonté qui disent non aux extrêmes ». Thus far, the winds of change don’t seem to be blowing in his favor. Instead of attracting moderate leftists to his camp, the upheaval seems to be strengthening the left-wing coalition that opposes him. While Les Republicans on the right refuse to join forces with Marine Le Pen’s further-right Rassemblement national, they also refuse to join Macron (rendering themselves impotent in the upcoming contest).

How to triumph, by Xavier Gorce
“The main thing is to cause our ideas to triumph.”
“But you change them incessantly.”
“Precisely: so that they’ll triumph”
by Xavier Gorce

If either the left or the right coalition gains a majority, Macron will be forced to choose a new vice president from within their ranks. As things stand, three political factions will dominate the election: Ensemble, a coalition of 5 centrist parties that back Macron, including the current Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal; Nouveau Front populaire, NFP, uniting 5 left-wing parties and various political actors; and, Rassemblement national, RN, the party of Marine Le Pen.

However, the left and right coalitions are not without their own internal dramas. If the NFP gains the greatest number of seats, Jean Luc Mélenchon, founder of La France insoumise, the largest left-wing party, is ready to become Prime Minister. But many view Mélenchon as a thorny eccentric whose time in the spotlight is waning. Thus, the NFP has decided to defer choosing a candidate to fill the Prime Minister position. Meanwhile, if the right gains the majority, Marine Le Pen has agreed to cede the Prime Ministership to her 28-year-old prodigy, Jordan Bardella. A Macron/Bardella pairing is destined to flounder, leaving the path clear for Le Pen to snag the presidency in 2027.

The problem with rebels, by lara
Melee on the left
Jean Luc Melanchon (in tie and glasses) is the founder of the left-wing party called Rebellious France.
“The problem isn’t the Rebellious”
“The problem is the Rebellious rebelling”
by lara
Matignon is Melenchon, by Chanu
Matignon refers to the French Prime Minister’s official residence, his offices, and administration. This cartoon plays on a phrase uttered by Louis XIV in 1655, “l’état, c’est moi”.
Group of disgruntled leftists: “he’s causing us to relapse.”
by Chanu
Bardella's new boots, by Hector
Bardella: “So Marine, how do I look?”
Le Pen: “Better put on Papa’s boots!”
Marine Le Pen’s father is a holocaust denier.
by Hector

It’s the Economy…

As in the United States, the biggest issue for the French is the economy, especially consumer buying power. The NFP is taking aim at the rich—working to convince voters that increasing taxes for the wealthy will ensure the fiscal feasibility of programs such as price caps on food and energy and a higher minimum wage. The number one talking point for the RN remains the flood of immigrants competing for French jobs and governmental services. Both left and right promise to roll back Macron’s unpopular decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Dubious promesses, by Ménégol
Legislative elections: the French in the face of campaign promises
Wolf: “If you vote for me I promise to become a vegetarian!”
by Ménégol

Meanwhile, Macron’s coalition, Ensemble, promises new programs to help the average citizen. However, details regarding how to pay for them while simultaneously reducing the deficit (another primary goal) are unclear. This is a paltry summary of each coalition’s platform, but it highlights issues of great concern for voters and may explain why polls show the RN currently in first place, followed by the NFP, with Ensemble trailing third. Macron’s calculation seems to have been about as effective as throwing a coin into a fish pond and making a wish, only far more costly.

Macron abandonned, by Goubelle
Macron supporters abandon the president
Macron in bed: “It’s crazy Brigitte, everyone is running from me.”
“Brigitte??! Brigitte??!”
by Goubelle

As with French presidential elections, legislative voting takes place in two rounds, separated by one week. After Sunday’s election, the two leading candidates, plus any others who have garnered at least 12.5% of registered voters, will advance to the second round of voting on July 7. The candidate that receives the greatest number of votes on the 7th—not necessarily a majority of the votes—wins.

I'll do anything, by Sie
Macron ready to do anything
“If you vote for us…”
“I’ll lift my rug!”
by Sie

Playing the Long Game

Cynics speculate that Macron, frustrated with stalemates in the National Assembly, simply decided to go for broke. This time when the dust settles, he’ll either have a majority that allows him to execute his vision or a resumption of the unproductive, partisan squabbles that have plagued his mandate. French law prohibits more than two consecutive terms in office, but it does not prevent a candidate from running a third time after a pause. In 2032, Macron will be 54 years old. The skeptics claim that Macron firmly believes in his opponents’ eventual downfall(s). Their ideologies haven’t yet been put to the test. Might he be betting that after 8 years under their tenure, the French will welcome him back with open arms?

I’m hardly in a position to judge. While the French are understandably worried about their future, I can offer one consoling thought. At least all of the players in this debacle, except Mélenchon, are under the age of 55. After last night’s U.S. presidential debate, that alone is a major breath of fresh air.

Worst debate in U.S. history, by Hermann
“This is the worst debate in U.S. history!”
“I don’t agree. There’s only two of them.”
by Hermann

About Carol A. Seidl

Serial software entrepreneur, writer, translator, and mother of 3. Avid follower of French media, culture, history, and language. Lover of books, travel, history, art, cooking, fitness, and nature. Cultivating connections with francophiles and francophones.


  1. Rogue is the correct word. Very appropriate. Macron did not campaign for Presidency in 2022. He sort of assumed he would win because he is the best, right. Fact is: he was elected because the French either voted against Le Pen or against Mélenchon. But he understood his victory as “They’ve chosen ME.” So he did not campaign for the Législatives (The House) that followed. As a result he didn’t have a majority. He didn’t listen, and instead of building a coalition with either the moderate right or the moderate left, he forced every law with the 49.3 (engaging the government’s responsability).
    Now? The French have voted in the European elections in favour of Le Pen. And he still doesn’t listen, he dissolves the House.
    Rogue (and stupid)
    Thanks for the cartoons. At least there is some sense of humour left in the country…

    • That was very Napoleonic of him—more like a dictator than a politician. He believes, however, that the same thing that happened in 2017 will happen again, mettant le public au pied du mur. (An expression I learned in studying this thing.) Yes, humor helps.

      • The French don’t like being forced. “Le pied du mur” is not appreciated. He will probably get another smashing defeat. And then what happens to the country? Many -french- analysts says he’s playing Russian Roulette – with 5 cartridges- with the country out of personal ego… terrible.

        • Your prediction appears to be coming to pass. Sorry there’s not much consolation in getting this right.

          • All the polls pointed to that. And it’s probably the case of the “lesser of two evils”… Now we have to see the second round. And, and, whether Macron will respect the elections. His role is now to balance “evil”, not go around the constitution… (And there have already been two “cohabitations”, the worst being with Jospin…
            A very old friend of mine in France just texted the results. Conlcuding “ingouvernable. I don’t care…” LOL
            And going back on this side of the pond, latest poll in the US gives Tramp at 45, Biden at 44? Or sthg like that? It’s not over yet.

          • Can you explain further what you mean by Macron not respecting the elections? Do you mean, for example, that Macron will use his presidential powers to reject all proposed legislation for the rest of his mandate? Or, might he take more drastic measures, like Trump, to change the French constitution to support an indefinitely long autocratic reign?

            Trump has led Biden in every poll I’ve seen for the last few months. At this moment, the French political situation feels canary-in-the-coal-mine-ish. If France leans hard right, what does that imply about the U.S., which is already a far more conservative country?

            The political alliances are now reshuffling before the second tour. Any chance that the Macronistes will line up behind Mélenchon or vice versa?

          • Macton can’t change the Constitution. For that you need a vote of 2/3 of Congress= Assemblée + Senate. Not gonna happen.
            “Not respecting” the election. If there is an absolute majority in the House (289 seats), he technically has to name the leader of that majority. Left or right. But the President names who he wants… by the Constitution. It’s not like a Parliamentary system like in the UK, where the Prime MInister is the leader of the winning party. So if he choses to name someone else, even in the party, that someone will have to engage the gvt’s responsibility before the house. Unlikely the majority party will vote against one of its own. That’s one way he can… do what he wants.
            Then even if he names the leader of the winning party, the Pdt decides the agenda of the Conseil des ministres. he can delay some laws to be presented before the House. Later on the Senate is majority “Les Républicains”. They can ammend laws presented by the House. After two runs, the House has the last vote over the Senate.
            But, but, the Pdt can, in some occasions put a veto, by refusing to sign the law… It’s what we call in French “Le Bordel”. Nothing to do with the other word, just means chaos.

            Now, if there is no absolute majority, we’re back to square 1, where we were already. The Pdt can name anybody to form a gvt, said anybody can be brought down by a 50% (plus 1) vote of the House. etc. etc. That is “Le Grand Bordel”.
            Add to that the fact that he can’t dissolve the House again before a full year.
            Now, “hard right”, “hard left”? Mélenchon is way harder left than Le Pen is hard right. The latter has amnended their programme considerably to pull votes from the “classic” right. They’s also “hired” many people who’re not exactly “fascists”. Entrepreneurs, middle class. Maybe those might incline the RN more to the center? No one knows.
            And I have no idea about the combination of a Trump/Le Pen combination. They seem to me two different… animals. Mélenchon? He’s a former Trotskyist. If he loses he and his troops might call to the street… (And I don’t see Macronists voting for him…)
            Sorry for a -too- long answer. All I can say is that we’re heading for a major “Bordel” in France. And that is never good. For the country, for Europe, for NATO, for the world. (We are the only nuclear power on the continent. Besides R*ss**)
            Take care mon amie.

  2. PS. As far as the US is concerned, I just saw the NYT title about Biden… I fail to understand how no-one seems to be able to say: “Joe. You’ve done a fantastic job. Please step down.”

    • I feel at this point it’s too late to begin again. The fact remains that Biden has done far more for the country than Trump and the election is in November. That probably sounds absurd to a citizen of a sane country where campaigns last for a small fraction of the time they take here. The benefit, however, is that most voters will forget about the debate or at least the sting of Biden’s bumbling will have faded.

      • I agree totally. Biden has been the right president, not only for America, but for the world. The other… clown would have let P*t*n take away Ukraine without a word…
        Good point, hopefully people will forget about the debate…

  3. The cartoons are fun (and grim). Things are bad all over, I guess.

    • I’m still reading Desert Solitaire and thought about your son last night when I came to a part where Abbey diverges into the dangers of an authoritarian government using technology to enforce its dictates. Scary stuff. Let’s hope all these western democracies can withstand the strain.

  4. I’ll be watching the outcome of this election with considerable interest. At the time of Macron’s arrogant decision to raise the retirement age in defiance of the overwhelming popular will, I had a feeling that it would come back to bite him eventually, so it’s noteworthy that the left and right both promise to reverse the change.

    I agree that it’s a positive that most of the major figures contending for office are in their fifties. US politics is becoming a gerontocracy, even though most of the public is not comfortable with that. On the other hand, the point of several of the cartoons seems to be that politicians keep changing their claimed intentions and making unbelievable promises, to the extent even of the wolf promising to become vegetarian. Voters generally don’t like that either. With both Biden and Trump, we at least know pretty much what we’d get.

    I think I got the gist of Truant’s cartoon about Macron’s two paths to victory, but my assessment is that he’s deluding himself. He’s a man of a bygone era, a dinosaur who doesn’t grasp that conditions have changed and he and his kind are headed for extinction. The recent EU elections made it clear which way the wind is blowing. Meloni has been in office in Italy since 2022 and I have not heard of any “implosion” which would imply a return of the pro-immigrationists to power there any time soon. Macron has a couple of years left in office, but if French doesn’t now have a word for “lame duck”, it will soon need one.

    It’s also interesting that Jordan Bardella (the soon-to-be prime minister) is of partly Algerian descent, hence the obviously Algerian family name. In a way, it’s evidence of France’s success at assimilating people of North African ancestry, that a man of his origins feels so French as to embrace the nativist ideology of the RN.

    As I said, I’ll be watching this election with interest, and I’m sure both of us will have something to say about the results, even if we’re probably not rooting for the same people.

    • You were right about the age of retirement being of far more importance to people that Macron realized. At this moment, the RA seems to have a strong lead, next the NFP and finally Macron’s allies.

      I did some searching for “lame duck” in French and found that newspapers use a direct translation, “canard boiteux”, but often in the context of American politics. Another option is “bras cassé” which translates to lame duck but isn’t typically used in the context of politics.

      “With both Biden and Trump, we at least know pretty much what we’d get.” Ha! I guess there’s a silver lining in every shit storm.

  5. I appreciate your describing all these machinations, though following them makes my head hurt. How ominous do you think the cartoon of Le Pen offering Daddy’s boots is?

    • I don’t feel I know enough to answer that question other than to say that like most cartoons, it isn’t completely baseless. Le Pen has been very vocal about her support of Israel and has long worked to undo her father’s prior inflammatory statements. On the other hand, she’s the head of a party whose main issue is anti-immigration and her opponents see her as Islamophobic. She supports a ban on the wearing of headscarves, for example.

  6. Not one mention of funding. Nothing at all like an American election.

    • That’s an excellent observation. In writing this post, I searched and searched to find information about what this election might be costing both the candidates and the public in general. Google yielded nothing. The government has essentially closed down for a month and this interruption took place just as an important multi-partisan bill regarding assisted dying came to the Assembly floor. I hope that at some point, analysts will publish numbers about what this has cost.

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