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Without an absolute majority, a greener Macron?

Macron and Melenchon talking in the Elysee Palace
Photo credits: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Next Sunday, June 12th, about half of the French voters (less among young electors) are expected to come vote for their Members of Parliament. Even if taken with precaution regarding the election type (577 local elections), polls indicate recently re-elected President Emmanuel Macron might face more obstacles than assumed to implement his policies.

Photo of Leo Robert

Written by

Leo Robert

Power Analyst

Climate change enthusiast and former OECD Economics Consultant on Renewables within the IPAC. Holds a Master in Economics and Public Policy from Sciences Po Paris.

AAn election but no campaign

a. No or small interest from the voters

France, like many European countries, is currently facing an important democratic crisis: a lot of French voters have either lost faith in the ability of politics and politicians to change their daily lives and/or they believe that there are other channels more suited to promote their causes (NGOs, petitions, social networks, etc.). It leads to record-breaking abstention levels for all elections, including the Parliament ones (see graph below).

Abstention aux legislative en France depuis 1958

This goes in pair with three phenomena specialists have been observing: a fewer attachment to democracy (i), defiance towards politics and politicians (ii), and a lack of confidence in the future (iii).

Amongst all political studies, the one conducted by the CEVIPOF is the most instructive: it provides us with regular snapshots of the French society and helps us understand its evolutions.

As shown by the image below, to the question “How do you feel about politics?”, asked 10 times between 2008 and 2018, 79% of reported feelings were negative. 39% of interviewed people mentioned “mistrust”, 28% “disgust” and, far away, only 12% reported “interest” …

Resultats CEVIPOF

Furthermore, the trust in politicians is quite low in France: the President only benefits from 28% of trust, while the Members of Parliament (MPs) are at 41%. Only one actor has a trust level above 50%, the mayor.

Finally, and this is potentially linked to the climate change crisis that we have become aware of recently, only a small amount of interviewed people (37%) say that they are “always optimistic when they think about their future”. This absence of trust in what is to come is characteristic of the French behaviour to many extents. It also partly explains the quite high reluctance some solutions to tackle climate change are facing (wind turbines): ruined for ruined, we better preserve our life quality and standards rather than ‘amending it’ for a solution that we are not sure of and that will not dramatically change the face of the world.

Jefferson quote

If the French people have an undeniable responsibility (“We have the politicians we deserve"), politicians still have a role to play to increase interest and trust in politics, and, to say the least, Emmanuel Macron has not quite been up to the task.

b. Macron trying to do the same as for the presidential election

During the 2022 Presidential election (read our article about the GO market here, Emmanuel Macron didn’t go “into the arena”, trying to stand as Jupiter, above the masses. Therefore, he hasn’t been discussing neither his program nor, more specifically, its proposals for the environment.

It is here difficult to identify the egg and the chicken: is it because Macron didn’t really campaign that voters weren’t interested in the campaign, or the contrary?

What is certain is that by not going into the arena, the re-elected President participated, somehow, to the disinterest of voters, to what Brice Teinturier, Executive Director of IPSOS, called a “Tefal campaign, a campaign that does not stick”.

c. One event has been occupying all minds in the beginning…

There is nonetheless one event that has been of concern for the French: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, mainly for two reasons.

First, the more obvious and predictable: human rights were and are still violated in Ukraine.

Second, something probably less expected: the spectacular rise in electricity and oil prices. In fact, if the rise in electricity regulated prices will be limited to 4% this year, this is not the case for diesel and gasoline. According to carburants.org, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, diesel prices have increased by almost 35 Eurocents per litre or +20%. Same with gasoline, which is now at approximately 221 Eurocents per litre, while it was on average 188 the day before the Russian invasion (+17%).

Evolution du tarif reglemente d'electricite HT depuis 2006

Thus, it was not the record-breaking temperature levels of early 2022 that made the headlines, but how much this increase in what was meant to be an energy of the past will affect French wallets. Is there a connection with the announcement of President Macron to restart investments in nuclear after having shut down the Fessenheim nuclear plant? Probably.

Still, with the left on the rise, Macron will have to “green” his plans, and he already greened his speech, fearing that the left might have a majority at the Parliament and therefore force him into a more ‘radical’ project.

Logo NUPES

In a nutshell, here are five key measures that the left historical coalition agreed upon (find the whole program here, in French):

  1. Include the green rule in the Constitution, which requires that no more be taken from nature than it can replenish, in particular by recognising a legal status for nature (possibility of defending it in court, consideration in decisions, etc.)
  2. Raise France's climate ambitions with a target of a 65% reduction in emissions by 2030 (instead of the current 40%) and make an annual assessment public
  3. Plan the transition to 100% renewable energies and the exit from nuclear power with a double watchword: sobriety and efficiency. Abandon the EPR (European Pressurized Reactor) projects, plan the dismantling, rehabilitation and conversion of nuclear sites and their entire catchment areas
  4. Exit carbon-based energies: stop subsidising fossil fuels, including abroad
  5. Reject the liberalisation of the electricity and gas market: stop the privatisation of hydroelectric dams, preserve the national character of the electricity distribution network.

These measures are quite far from what Macron intends to do, especially on the left coalition (NUPES) intention to exit nuclear. But Macron might have to deal with it and, at least, amend his project, depending on which one of the three scenarios below occurs.


B. What about the environment?

Three scenarios are likely to happen, and each one of them will mean something different for the environment and France’s climate change strategy.

Scenario 1: Macron has the absolute majority, >289 MPs (70% chance)

i. No need to find allies with either left or right MPs

ii. A strict application of its program: more nuclear and greener at the same time.

Scenario 2: Macron does not have 289 MPs but between 260 and 280 (25% chance)

i. He will have to look for votes either with the left (socialists not part of NUPES) or with the right (LR), depending on the topics.

Scenario 3: Macron does not have 289 MPs, but NUPES has it. (5% chance)

i. Politically forced to appoint Melenchon PM, but will he do it?

ii. Shift of the environmental measures to the left.

No doubt that Sunday’s elections are crucial for France future. Voters’ choices will set the tone for Macron’s second mandate, a mandate he assured would be greener and more respectful of everyone.

Once the results are known, we will provide you with another analysis and what it means for the future of France’s energy setup and policies.

Should you need precisions or have questions, you can reach out to me at leo@greenfact.com

Sources: Carburants.org, CEVIPOF, Euronews, GlobalEcho, Huffington Post, POLITICO.

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