1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

French parliamentary elections begin in overseas territories

June 29, 2024

Although mainland France won't vote in the first round election until Sunday, the island group of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, off Canada's east coast, have opened polling stations.

A voter casts his ballot at a polling station in Saint-Pierre, on June 29, 2024
Voting began a day earlier in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, off the east coast of CanadaImage: Chantal Briand/AFP/Getty Images

Voters on the French northern Atlantic archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon began voting in France's snap legislative elections on Saturday, a day before the mainland.

The local public broadcaster La1ere said over 5,000 eligible voters were called to the polls from 8 a.m. local time (10:00 UTC/GMT) to choose their deputy from five candidates, including from the main national political blocs, to sit in the National Assembly.

Macron's risky bet

French President Emmanuel Macron took a major political gamble by calling the legislative elections after his centrist party was trounced by the far-right National Rally (RN) party of Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament elections earlier this month.

The populist RN is well ahead in pre-election polling, so the country could see its first far-right government since the World War II Nazi occupation.

The new leftist New Popular Front (NFP) alliance is in second place, while Macron's centrist Renaissance is trailing in third.

Despite having a relative majority at present and Macron's hopes of increasing his majority, Renaissance is expected to lose many seats once the results are in, following the second round of voting on July 7.

Analysts see the RN taking most seats, but it is unclear whether the party will secure the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority.

France set to vote in high-stakes legislative election

How does the French voting system work?

France has 577 constituencies and each sends one delegate to the National Assembly in Paris.

Candidates securing more than 50% of the vote in the first round are elected, but most go through only after the second round.

In some cases, three or four candidates could make it to the second round in any district — anyone with more than 12.5% of the popular vote is eligible to compete in the next round — though some may step aside to improve the chances of another contender.

This tactic has often been used in the past to block far-right candidates.

In the past, France's far right has often struggled to convert its first-round advantage into seats when facing fewer rivals, or often only one rival, in a runoff vote.

Key party leaders are expected to update their election strategy between the two rounds, which makes the result of the second round highly difficult to predict.

France could see 'cohabitation'

If either the far-right or left-wing alliance win, Macron — who has said he has no plans to step down as president — would be forced into a period of "cohabitation."

Macron would be required to appoint a prime minister belonging to that new majority.

In the case of the far-right RN, that would be the party's president Jordan Bardella, rather than Le Pen, who heads the RN's parliamentary group.

Marine Le Pen stands in front of a video screen showing the image of RN party chair Jordan Bardella at a campaign event for the European Parliament elections on June 9, 2024
While Le Pen is synonymous with the French far-right party, chair Jordan Bardella is the choice for prime minister if the RN wins a majorityImage: Julien de Rosa/AFP

The prime minister is accountable to the parliament, leads the government and introduces new laws, so that could see National Assembly lawmakers implement policies that diverge from the president's plan.

While Macron's domestic power would be weakened, he would remain in charge of foreign policy, European affairs and defense, as the president is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The lower house of parliament is the more powerful of France's two chambers and has the final say in the law-making process over the Senate, dominated by conservatives.

Three other periods of cohabitation have happened in France's modern era, the last under conservative President Jacques Chirac, with Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, from 1997 to 2002.

French President Emmanuel Macron at a polling station for the European elections in Touquet, northern France, on June 9th 2024.
French President Emmanuel Macron may have to appoint a far-right or socialist prime ministerImage: Stephane Lemouton/Bestimage/IMAGO

What if there's no majority?

If there is no majority, the president can name a prime minister from the group with the most seats in the National Assembly.

RN has already said it would reject such an option because it would mean a far-right government could soon be overthrown through a no-confidence vote if other political parties join together.

Alternatively, the president could try to build a broad coalition from the left to the right, an option that sounds unlikely, given the political divergences.

A third option would be to appoint "a government of experts" unaffiliated with political parties. These ministers would still need to be approved by the National Assembly.

France has tightened security for Sunday's vote, which comes less than a month before Paris hosts the 2024 Olympic Games.

mm/msh (AP, dpa)