France’s Key Elections Could Lead to Historic Far-Right Win or Hung Parliament

France’s Key Elections Could Lead to Historic Far-Right Win or Hung Parliament

France’s recent legislative elections have left the nation in a state of political uncertainty, with the potential for a historic far-right win or a hung parliament. The elections saw a coalition of the French left securing the most seats, but falling short of a majority, while the far-right National Rally made significant gains. This outcome has set the stage for a period of political paralysis that could have far-reaching implications for France and the broader European Union.

The elections were called by President Emmanuel Macron on June 9, following a surge in far-right support during the European Parliament elections. Macron’s intention was to seek “clarification” from the voters, but the results suggest that this gamble has backfired. Official results released early Monday showed that none of the three main blocs managed to secure the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly, France’s more powerful legislative chamber.

The New Popular Front, a leftist coalition, emerged as the largest bloc with just over 180 seats. Macron’s centrist alliance followed with more than 160 seats, while Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and its allies secured over 140 seats, a significant increase from their previous best of 89 seats in 2022.

A hung parliament is uncharted territory for modern France. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who plans to resign, described the situation as unprecedented, especially with the Paris Olympics just weeks away. Attal expressed his willingness to remain in his position “as long as duty demands,” despite his clear disapproval of Macron’s decision to dissolve the outgoing National Assembly.

The new legislature lacks the stability of its predecessor, which, despite not having an absolute majority, managed to govern for two years by pulling in lawmakers from other camps. As Macron prepares to attend a NATO summit in Washington, he leaves behind a country uncertain about its next prime minister and the possibility of having to share power with a politician opposed to his policies.

Despite the political turmoil, there were moments of celebration among the left. In Paris’ Stalingrad square, supporters cheered as projections showed their alliance ahead. Similar scenes of joy were witnessed in Republique plaza, where people hugged strangers and applauded for several minutes after the projections were announced. Marielle Castry, a medical secretary, described the relief she felt upon hearing the results, having been stressed since the European elections on June 9.

The election has redrawn France’s political map, galvanizing leftist parties to set aside their differences and form a new alliance. This coalition aims to reverse many of Macron’s reforms, embark on extensive public spending, and adopt a tougher stance against Israel due to the war with Hamas. Macron has labeled the left’s coalition as “extreme,” warning that their economic program, which includes significant public spending financed by tax hikes on high earners, could be detrimental to France’s already criticized debt levels.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a prominent leader of the leftist coalition, has urged Macron to allow their alliance the first opportunity to form a government and propose a prime minister, stating that they are “ready to govern.”

While the National Rally achieved its best-ever result, it fell short of securing an absolute majority that would have given France its first far-right government since World War II. Far-right supporter Luc Doumont expressed mixed feelings, acknowledging the party’s progress but lamenting the missed opportunity for outright victory. The party’s rivals strategically withdrew candidates from many districts, leaving far-right candidates in head-to-head contests against single opponents, making it harder for them to win.

Many voters prioritized keeping the far right from power, supporting its opponents in the runoff even if they were from different political camps. Marine Le Pen, expected to run for the French presidency again in 2027, described the elections as laying the groundwork for “the victory of tomorrow,” despite her older sister, Marie-Caroline, losing her seat to a leftist candidate by just 225 votes. Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s protégé, lamented that the outcome “throws France into the arms of the extreme left.”

A statement from Macron’s office indicated that he would not rush into inviting a potential prime minister to form a government. He plans to wait for the new National Assembly to take shape before making any decisions.

France’s political landscape is more centralized than many other European countries, with most decisions made in Paris. Unlike other European nations accustomed to coalition governments, France lacks a tradition of lawmakers from rival political camps forming a majority. Macron had hoped that voters would shift from the far right and left back to mainstream parties closer to the center, where he found much of his support in the 2017 and 2022 presidential elections. However, millions of voters used the surprise election as an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with issues like inflation, crime, immigration, and Macron’s style of governance.

The sharp polarization of French politics, especially during this intense and rapid campaign, is likely to complicate efforts to form a government. The electoral campaign was marred by racism, antisemitism, Russian disinformation campaigns, and physical attacks on more than 50 candidates, an unusual occurrence for France.

As the nation grapples with the prospect of a hung parliament, the political uncertainty could have significant implications for the French economy, the EU, and global diplomacy. The outcome of these elections will shape France’s future and its role on the international stage.

Source: Associated Press

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