French elections: Environment minister loses seat, position in government

The new Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Amélie de Montchalin, has just been defeated in the legislative elections in the 6th constituency of Essonne. [EPA-EFE/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL]

Amélie de Montchalin, France’s minister for ecological transition and territorial cohesion since 20 May, was defeated in the parliamentary elections on Sunday (19 June) by a candidate of the new left-wing alliance NUPES, which means she will have to leave the government.

With only 46.6% of the votes in her constituency, de Montchalin, who is also a regional councillor for Île-de-France, was defeated by NUPES candidate Jérôme Guedj and thus missed out on the opportunity to establish herself as an influential figure in French politics.

Since President Emmanuel Macron requested in 2017 that any minister defeated in an election must resign, it means she lost her cabinet post. Moreover, government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire also announced on France Inter radio station on Monday a government reshuffle would take place “in the coming days.”

Three ministers defeated

No less than 15 ministers ran in the parliamentary elections this year.

While Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, Minister Delegate for Relations with Parliament Olivier Véran, Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune, or Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gabriel Attal, for instance, have all won the election in their respective constituencies, others are expected to leave the government in the coming days.

This is the case of de Montchalin, but also of Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon, defeated by a candidate of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN).

Macron loses majority following Assembly polls

French voters have denied President Emmanuel Macron a parliamentary majority following Sunday’s (19 June) second round of legislative elections, while the left and far-right have made significant advances.

Some key political figures of Macron’s party have also lost their seats in the National Assembly, like the former Minister Delegate for Equality between Women and Men, Elisabeth Moreno. The same holds true for the former Minister Delegate in charge of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, who lost to NUPES candidate Rachel Keke.

In addition, former interior minister Christophe Castaner, a close ally of Macron from the beginning, also failed to secure his parliamentary seat. The chairman of the National Assembly himself, Richard Ferrand, was also defeated in Sunday’s election.

A government focused on environmental and energy issues

De Montchalin held one of the key positions in the newly formed Borne government. As predicted, Macron took full advantage of his reelection as French president to stress the importance of environmental issues in his policies.

To this end, Macron put in place a trio of women. As he first announced at a rally held between the two rounds of the presidential campaign on 16 April, the prime minister is now “directly responsible for ecological planning”.

Additionally, two ministers support the PM in this mission, the minister for ecological transition and territorial cohesion (de Montchalin), and the minister for energy transition (Agnès Pannier-Runacher).

What kind of environmental policy with the RN?

However, with de Montchalin gone and no parliamentary majority, it is not clear what sort of environmental policy the French president will be able to pursue.

In the Assembly, the historic breakthrough of the Le Pen’s RN, which has increased its number of MPs tenfold, from eight in 2017 to 89, is expected to confirm the government in its position in favour of nuclear energy.

Le Pen party makes breakthrough with most ever parliamentary seats

The far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) surprised all by winning more than 80 seats in the second round of legislative elections on Sunday (19 June), according to initial estimates.

Meanwhile, the far-right is fiercely opposed to the deployment of wind power.

Yet the current trend is towards the development of large-scale projects, such as the new offshore wind farm off Saint-Nazaire in the Loire-Atlantique region. A total of 27 turbines out of 80 have just been put into operation, generating the first French megawatt-hours (MWh) from offshore wind power.

Nevertheless, it is the NUPES that becomes the main opposition, ahead of the RN. Therefore, if the left-wing alliance holds, the question is what will become of the future minister of ecological transition.

Could Macron appoint a member of the green party Europe Écologie les Verts (EELV), which scored an unprecedented 23 seats in the legislative elections?

Should a pro-European centre-left wing emerge from the alliance, a number of green politicians could be appointed as ministers, such as Yannick Jadot, who was the candidate for EELV in the presidential election.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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