France’s left-wing parties expected to lead parliamentary elections over far right

France’s left-wing parties expected to lead parliamentary elections over far right

A tense alliance between France’s centrist and leftist parties has successfully kept the far-right National Rally (RN) party at bay, according to exit polls. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal is set to resign following this unexpected outcome. In a surprising turn of events, a bloc of left-wing parties is projected to finish first, while President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance is predicted to come in second. Polling agencies suggest that RN, despite its initial lead after the first round of voting last weekend, is set to come in third.

Voter turnout was the highest in decades at 67.1%, with official results expected early Monday. Leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon expressed immense relief, calling for Attal’s resignation and urging the president to call on the New Popular Front to govern. However, no single bloc is on course to win an absolute majority, which could lead to a political stalemate, making it difficult to pass new legislation.

Attal, who led Macron’s centrist alliance, announced that he would submit his resignation on Monday morning. He emphasized that no absolute majority could be driven by the extremes, attributing this to the French spirit deeply attached to the Republic and its values. Macron’s office stated that he would wait to make any decisions on a new government but would ensure that the sovereign choice of the French people is respected.

The snap elections, called less than four weeks ago by President Macron, plunged the nation into a volatile election season. This period inflamed tensions as centrists scrambled to negotiate with the left to prevent the far right from taking an absolute majority after RN took the lead following the first round of voting. More than 200 candidates confirmed they would not stand in the second round to avoid splitting the anti-RN vote. Protests also swept the country, with demonstrators urging voters to turn out against RN.

French soccer superstar Kylian Mbappé also urged voters to come out against the far right, calling RN gains in the first round of voting catastrophic. RN President Jordan Bardella criticized the alliance that deprived the French people of an RN victory, calling it unnatural and dishonorable. While such tactics may have prevented the far right from implementing its anti-immigrant, euroskeptic agenda, it has likely left Parliament locked in political paralysis.

A hung Parliament sets up the possibility of political inertia, where parties cooperate through ad hoc alliances to pass legislation. This could deprive France of a functioning government and potentially deepen the sense of disillusionment already felt by large swaths of the electorate. This will not only affect France’s domestic policies but also could stifle its international presence at the European Union and neutralize its most important leaders on the global stage.

Bardella has said he would not govern France without a majority and appears to have few allies to choose from, according to exit polls. The leftist New Popular Front alliance and Macron’s centrists are projected to win enough seats to form a coalition, but Macron has said he would reject a coalition that included the far-left France Unbowed party. Macron’s centrists have previously allied with center-right Republicans while in power.

With his presidential term running until 2027, Macron was not on the ballot but has said he would stay in office regardless of the election outcome. Ordinarily, the president would name a prime minister from the parliamentary group with the most seats in the National Assembly. However, the contentious composition of the government could turn this into a tumultuous process, as a prime minister can risk being overthrown through a no-confidence vote if other parties join together.

The leftist coalition, which has promised to raise the minimum wage, freeze food and energy prices, and reverse a law that raised the retirement age from 62 to 64, has not publicly announced the selection of a candidate for prime minister. High-profile figures on that end of the ideological spectrum include Manuel Bompard of the hard-left France Unbowed party and the Socialist Party’s Raphaël Glucksmann.

Samantha de Bendern, a geopolitical commentator for the news outlet La Chaine Info, said France could face a year of chaos as parties jockey for power and haggle over who should be prime minister, with Macron unable to call new parliamentary elections until June 2025.

While the RN is set to fall far short of expectations, the party is on course to claim more seats than ever before. The anti-immigrant, euroskeptic RN ran on a platform that promised to put France back on its feet by giving French citizens national preference over immigrants for jobs and housing, abolishing the right to automatic French citizenship for children of foreign parents, and repealing some of Macron’s most controversial policies.

The standard-bearer for RN in these elections is Bardella, the party’s president and a loyal protégé of Marine Le Pen, the party’s ideological leader. With Bardella front and center, National Rally wrenched power from the center during last month’s European Union parliamentary elections. The party has also gained supporters after Le Pen began steering it away from its roots as an extreme ethnocentric party, as it was under her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, its founding president who led the party until 2011.

An Ipsos poll surveying over 10,000 voters showed the RN wields substantial support among voters of all ages, with rising support among French youth. A majority of those who identify as disadvantaged also overwhelmingly backed the RN in the first round of voting. RN will be moving forward with the wind in its sails as France enters a period of political uncertainty.

A defiant Marine Le Pen told reporters that her party’s victory has only been delayed.

Source: Freddie Clayton, JC Milhet, Hans Lucas, AFP, Getty Images

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