Left-wing alliance likely to secure most seats in French election as far-right falters

Left-wing alliance likely to secure most seats in French election as far-right falters

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party faced an unexpected defeat in the French parliamentary elections on Sunday, securing significantly fewer seats than anticipated. The far-right party managed to win only between 120 to 150 seats in the National Assembly, falling short of the projected numbers. In stark contrast, the left-wing coalition New Popular Union, which includes various far-left factions, is expected to emerge as the largest faction with 180 to 215 seats, according to exit polls. President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance is positioned in second place with 150 to 180 seats.

This outcome has led to an unprecedented scenario in modern French history: a hung parliament where no single faction commands a clear majority, complicating the formation of a stable government. The National Assembly will now be divided into three major blocs with stark ideological differences and limited precedent for inter-camp cooperation. Macron might seek to form a coalition with other parties to govern, but any coalition is likely to be fragile and susceptible to no-confidence votes. The forecast suggests that France is on the brink of political and economic turmoil, potentially leading to calls for Macron’s resignation before his term ends in 2027.

The election results have stunned the nation. Left-wing supporters, gathered in Stalingrad Square in Paris, celebrated exuberantly, embracing each other and passersby. In stark contrast, the atmosphere at the National Rally headquarters turned somber, with many supporters staring at their phones in disbelief. “The French are fickle, changing their minds between the first and second rounds,” lamented one disheartened supporter. “I’m more worried about France than I am disappointed.” Another activist, moved to tears, remarked: “This is not what we expected after all the hard work we put in.”

The French National Assembly comprises 577 seats, each representing an electoral district where residents elect their representative. The first round of voting, held last week, required candidates to secure over 50% of the votes in their district to win. Most races remained unresolved, with only leading candidates progressing to the decisive second round. Analysis of the first-round votes showed that over 33% of voters supported Le Pen’s National Rally, projecting her as a likely victor.

Leading up to today’s crucial vote, left and center parties strategically withdrew more than 200 candidates deemed unlikely to win, urging their supporters to back the moderate candidate with the best chance of defeating the far-right contender in each district. This strategy appears to have been remarkably effective, significantly diminishing Le Pen’s anticipated success. Pre-election polls had projected her party to win at least 220 seats, but it may end up with approximately 100 fewer, relegating it to third place. It’s important to note that while this still marks a substantial increase from the 89 seats the National Rally won in the previous election, the party had aimed for a much larger victory.

A key question will now be whether the awkward New Popular Front (NPF) alliance can agree on what course to take. Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI), ruled out a broad coalition of parties of different stripes and said Macron had a duty to call on the leftist alliance to rule. However, the NPF is well short of the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority.

The constitution does not oblige Macron to ask it to form a government, though that would be the usual course of action as it is the biggest group in parliament. In Macron’s entourage, there was no indication of his next move. “The question we’re going to have to ask ourselves tonight and in the coming days is: which coalition is capable of reaching the 289 seats to govern?” one person close to him told Reuters.

The first official results were expected later on Sunday, with the votes from most, if not all, constituencies likely to be in by the end of the day or the early hours of Monday. Voters have punished Macron and his ruling alliance for a cost of living crisis and failing public services, as well as over immigration and security. Le Pen and her party tapped into those grievances, spreading their appeal way beyond their traditional strongholds along the Mediterranean coast and in the country’s northern rust belt, but their gains compared with previous elections proved insufficient to win power.

The left-wing alliance’s likely success in securing the most seats marks a significant shift in French politics. The coalition’s ability to navigate the complexities of a hung parliament will be crucial in determining the country’s political stability in the coming years. The left-wing alliance’s rise also reflects a broader trend in European politics, where traditional centrist parties are losing ground to both far-left and far-right factions.

As France grapples with the implications of this election, the political landscape is set for a period of intense negotiation and potential instability. The left-wing alliance’s ability to form a cohesive and effective government will be closely watched, not just in France, but across Europe.

Source: Reuters, AFP

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