French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party La République en Marche (LREM) was dealt a severe blow on Sunday as it lost its absolute majority in France's National Assembly, likely complicating the newly re-elected president's second term agenda.
Provisional results showed that LREM (The Republic on the Move) won 245 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, the Ministry of the Interior announced early on Monday morning after vote counting ended. An absolute majority would require 289 seats.
Despite winning France's presidential race earlier this year with a reduced majority, Macron had been hoping for a strong parliamentary showing in Sunday's election.
Now, however, despite LREM taking the largest single block of seats, the French president will have to forge legislative alliances if he hopes to move any parts of his agenda.
"As the central force in the National Assembly, we must take on a special responsibility. We will work from tomorrow to build a majority capable of action," Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said in Paris on Sunday evening, adding: "We have everything we need to succeed and we will do it together."
Borne, a former socialist who joined LREM in 2017 and was appointed France's prime minister by Macron in May, described the situation as "novel," but stressed that "the French call on us to unite in the interest of the country."
One stumbling block to that could be the strong showing made by the left-leaning alliance headed by veteran socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, which won 131 seats, making it the second-largest party in the National Assembly.
Mélenchon argued during the campaign that, if his alliance did well, he should become the country's next prime minister. But as few of his policies align with Macron's goal of boosting the economy with workplace and pension reforms, this always appeared unlikely.
"This is a total debacle for the presidential party," Mélenchon said on election night, calling the result the "electoral defeat of Macronism."
Marine Le Pen
Further complicating the picture, Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally did far better than anticipated, winning 89 seats, over 10 times as many as it previously held, making it the third strongest force in parliament.
"This is a tsunami," said party president Jordan Bardella, speaking to broadcaster TF1, before adding that the voters had made Macron a minority leader.
Le Pen, who failed in her second presidential bid against Macron in April, said the results were a boost for her party.
"The people have spoken and sent a strong group from the National Rally to the National Assembly," she said, stressing her goal would be to block Macron's agenda.
One glimmer of hope for Macron came from the centre-right Les Républicains, which took a sharp hit, winning just 74 seats. Still, there might be enough overlap in interests for Macron to win their support for some of his reform agenda.
Nonetheless, the results are bad news for Macron, who was re-elected to the presidency just weeks ago. French legislative elections come quickly after presidential elections and usually act as a way to firm up support for the winner.
However, despite winning a second term in the Élysée Palace in April, Macron received fewer votes than did in his first win in 2017.