PARIS -- Although Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen from the far right in April's presidential election in France, the French president now faces a threat from the other side of the political spectrum as he fights for parliamentary power.
On Sunday, 577 members of France's most powerful branch, the National Assembly will be elected. A runoff is scheduled for June 19.
Jean-Luc Melenchon from the far-left, who is the leader of a coalition of leftists greens and communists known as Nupes, seeks to win the election and stop Macron's party retaining its current majority in the parliamentary elections.
Ex-Trotskyist Melenchon would like to see the minimum wage increase and the retirement age lowered to 60. If his coalition wins control, he would like to become prime minister. This scenario could have the potential to derail Macron’s domestic agenda.
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WHAT HAS MACRON GOT TO LOSE?
It is a lot. The president can still carry out his agenda if Macron's Ensemble! coalition keeps control. However, observers believe Macron's party could struggle to get an absolute majority -- which is the magic number 289 seats -- this time.
A government with a large but not absolute majority can still rule but only if it bargains with MPs.
Although Melenchon's alliance could win more seats than 200, the current projections show that there is little chance for them to win a majority. According to the latest polls, Macron and his allies will win between 260-320 seats.
No matter what the result of this poll, Macron will still have significant power over foreign policy. A poor showing by his coalition could prove to be a problem for him during his second five-year term. This could be disastrous for President Obama's agenda which includes tax cuts and welfare reform, as well as raising the retirement age.
Macron will lose control and be unable to lead the country, especially in foreign affairs and defense. The government will decide key domestic and economic issues. Olivier Rozenberg, associate professor in legislative studies at Sciences Po university, said that Melenchon's coalition will be hostile to his agenda.
France was last to have a president and a parliamentary majority from different parties two decades ago. That was when the conservative President Jacques Chirac worked alongside a Socialist prime Minister, Lionel Jospin. This power-sharing fraught scenario is known as cohabitation. In 2000, the constitution was amended to make it easier to avoid gridlock and reduce the presidency's term to seven years. The parliamentary elections were moved to the same five year cycle.
However, this year's election is closer than ever before. Macron would have to choose a prime minister from the coalition if Nupes wins control.
"Prime Minister (Elisabeth Borne) will be forced out, all ministers will be replaced and the prime minister will choose. Rozenberg said that it was likely to be a Prime Minister Melenchon. "Difficulty is not even the right word."
MELENCHON, THE COLORFUL RADIICAL
The mercurial septuagenarian leader and France Unbowed party's strong third place in April's presidential elections continued to capitalise on his popularity.
He has a radical vision of France and a theatrical way to present it. Bruno Le Maire, Finance Minister, referred to him as the "Gallic Chavez", comparing him with the late Venezuelan president.
Melenchon has recently softened his tone in order to attract more traditional leftist voters. He also took a strong pro-environment stance which gained him increasing support from young people.
Melenchon would prefer that the Fifth Republic, which Charles de Gaulle established in 1958, be scrapped in favour of a Sixth Republic. This will make it more democratic, parliamentary-based and less dependent on the presidential system. He wants to lower the retirement age from 60 to 15%, to restore wealth taxes, and to raise the minimum wage by 15%.
HOW IT WORKS
The French system is complicated and does not reflect the support of all citizens for a party. Districts elect their legislators.
To be elected on June 12, a parliamentary candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote cast each day.
If that fails, the top two candidates, along with anyone who received more than 12.5% of the registered votes, will be invited to the second round. Sometimes, it is possible for three to four people to make it. However, some might step aside in order increase the chances of another candidate.
This tactic was often used to stop Marine Le Pen's National Rally party candidates.
Le Pen's party won eight seats in 2017 and hopes to win at least 15 this year. This will allow it to form a parliamentary bloc and increase its power at the Assembly.
The National Assembly is France's lower house of parliament and it is the most powerful. It is the Senate's last voice in law-making.
As food and energy prices rise, inflation is a major concern for voters. Macron is hopeful that his efforts to increase growth and food production will be well received by the electorate. Melenchon's plan to increase the minimum wage to 1,400 euro per month will be welcomed by blue-collar voters.
After the Paris police shooting that resulted in the death of a suspect, police violence has become a hot political topic. This was just a week after tear gas was used on soccer fans in Paris at the Champions League final. The left capitalized on these incidents to attack Macron's brutal policing tactics. However, observers believe that Macron is doing well in the eyes of voters on security issues because he has taken a more difficult line than the left historically.
"Macron is more trustworthy in terms of security. Rozenberg said that a majority of people trust him to lead in this area. Rozenberg said, "This could be in his hands."
Macron could also benefit from the high abstention rate predicted.