France's election ends up with no clear majority. This is what could happen next

PARIS (AP) — French voters have given a broad leftist coalition the most parliamentary seats in a pivotal legislative election that has kept the far right from power but has put France in the unprecedented position of having no dominant political bloc in parliament.

While a fractured parliament is not uncommon in Europe, France has not experienced that in its modern history. That sends the country into uncharted territory that will involve tense negotiations to form a new government and name a prime minister, who focuses on domestic policy and shares power with the president.

President Emmanuel Macron ’s centrist alliance came in second in Sunday's runoff for the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, after his centrists and the leftists both campaigned against the far right, with candidates in three-way races dropping out to benefit the one deemed most likely to defeat the far right candidate. The far right party came in third, though still drastically increasing its number of seats.

No clear figure has emerged as a possible future prime minister.

Macron can propose a name, but that choice would need support from a parliamentary majority. He says he will wait to decide his next steps, and heads to Washington this week for a NATO summit. New legislators start work Monday, and hold their first session July 18.

A hung parliament?

Three major political blocs have emerged — none of them is close to holding a majority of at least 289 seats out of 577. Results so far have showed just over 180 seats for the New Popular Front leftist coalition, 160 for Macron's Together for the Republic centrist coalition, and more than 140 for the far-right National Rally party.

The National Assembly is the most important of France’s two houses of parliament. It has the final say in the lawmaking process over the Senate, which is dominated by conservatives.

The split lower house will require lawmakers to build consensus across parties to agree on government positions and a legislative agenda. France’s fractious politics and deep divisions over taxes, immigration and Mideast policy make that especially challenging.

The results means Macron's centrist allies almost certainly won't be able to implement their pro-business proposals such a promise to overhaul unemployment benefits. It could also make passing a budget more difficult.

Can Macron make a deal with the left?

Macron may seek a deal with more moderate elements of the left. France has no tradition of this kind of arrangement, so such negotiations — if they happen — are expected to be difficult and could result in an informal and fragile alliance.

Macron has said he would not work with the hard-left France Unbowed party, but he could stretch out a hand to other parties in the New Popular Front: the Socialists and the Greens. They may refuse to take it, however.

His government last week suspended a decree that would have diminished workers’ rights to unemployment benefits, which has been interpretated as a gesture toward the left.

Some Macron allies are instead pushing to form a government around the centrists and the conservative Republicans who together with their allies came in fourth with over 60 seats. However, that grouping would still need support of additional lawmakers.

Is the left divided?

The left has been torn by divisions, especially after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon and other leaders of the hard-left France Unbowed party have been sharply criticized by other more moderate leftists for their stance on the conflict. Hard-left politicians, who have accused Israel of pursuing genocide against Palestinians, have faced accusations of antisemitism, which they strongly deny.

In elections last month for the European Parliament, the Socialists ran independently, but Macron's call for an early parliamentary election drew leftist leaders together into the New Popular Front.

Their joint platform promises to raise the minimum monthly salary from 1,400 to 1,600 euros ($1,515 to $1,735), pull back Macron’s pension reform that increased the retirement age from 62 to 64 and freeze food and energy prices. All that has financial markets worried.

What is Mélenchon’s role ?

Mélenchon says the leftist alliance is “ready to govern." But there’s no chance he’ll be named prime minister, because Macron refuses to work with him, and so far Mélenchon's own coalition has not proposed him — or anyone else — for the job. New Popular Front leaders say further internal discussions are needed.

The 72-year-old founder of France Unbowed is disliked by many moderates and often perceived as authoritarian. A wily politician and gifted orator, Mélenchon has long been a figure on the French left, first in the Socialist Party. He launched France Unbowed in 2016 and was an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2017 and 2022.

Political rivals have argued that the left's win in Sunday's parliamentary elections stemmed more from fear of the far right than any attraction for Mélenchon or his party.

Why is a ‘temporary’ government needed?

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal offered his resignation Monday but Macron instead asked him to remain “temporarily” after election results left the government in limbo. Attal says he can stay on through the upcoming Paris Olympics or as long as needed.

For now, Attal's government will handle day-to-day management. Macron’s office says he will “wait for the new National Assembly to organize itself” before making decisions on a new government.

There is no firm timeline for when Macron must name a prime minister, and no firm rule that he has to pick someone from the largest party or bloc in parliament.

What about Macron?

The president's term runs until 2027, and he says he won't step down. With no majority and little possibility of implementing his own agenda, Macron comes out weakened from the election.

But under France's Constitution, he still holds power over foreign policy, European affairs and defense and is in charge of negotiating and ratifying international treaties. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces and holds the nuclear codes.

The prime minister is accountable to parliament, leads the government and introduces bills. The new prime minister might be unable or unwilling to seriously challenge Macron’s defense and foreign policy powers.


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