Yesterday I wrote that a) la NUPES would not win a majority in the legislature but b) would win enough votes to deprive Macron of an absolute majority, and that this would have the paradoxical effect of forcing Macron to seek the support of Les Républicains, thus driving the president even farther to the right than he would prefer to govern. Any number of other commentators have voiced similar sentiments, including Thomas Legrand on France Inter and today in the New York Times the left-wing journalist Cole Stangler, who writes: “France’s winner-take-all system gives an advantage to the more mainstream Republicans, who would be more natural governing partners for Mr. Macron.”
But there is another and to my mind more optimistic scenario in the offing. While it is true that la NUPES will nominally constitute the primary opposition to Macron, there is absolutely no guarantee that this loose electoral coalition will remain united on all issues. On particular measures, especially those relating to environmental issues, the government can seek the support of the Socialists or Greens, say, rather than trying to woo LR. And since we are now told that Macron is not wedded to the pension reform that has driven a wedge between him and the moderate left–“Macron sur les retraites: «64 ou 65 ans, je m’en fous!», as Libé headlined yesterday–compromise on issues of mutual concern seems within reach.
Whatever one thinks of Macron, he has proved adept at positioning himself so as to split seemingly solid coalitions apart–what has happened to LR is a case in point–so there is no reason to believe that he will not now try his hand at splitting la NUPES, which is a far flimsier coalition than LR was. Having secured against all odds the survival of his party by allying with the alien force led by Mélenchon, Olivier Faure is now in a position to rebuild the PS as an independent force.
He will of course take a lot of flak for doing so. Any alliance with a leader as mercurial and vituperative as Mélenchon is always a risk, and one can expect a good deal of invective directed at any “social traitor” who dares to compromise with the devil incarnate Macron has been made out to be. Rhetorically, a leader as soft-spoken as Faure–so soft-spoken as to have been inaudible for much of his tenure–cannot match Mélenchon, but the election could present him with a rare opportunity, which he would be a fool not to seize.