Left-wing wave stops far-right in French election

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France is heading for a hung parliament and difficult negotiations to form a government after a surprise left-wing victory thwarted Marine Le Pen’s bid to bring the far-right to power.

With nearly all votes counted on Sunday, the left-wing New Front (NFP) bloc won the most seats in the decisive snap election, dealing a blow to Le Pen’s National Rally party, which had been on track to win a majority in parliament.

The result represents a resounding success for a coordinated anti-RN strategy, in which left-wing and centrist parties withdrew their candidates from the second round of voting.

But the result will leave the eurozone’s second-largest economy in limbo over its next government, with no bloc winning a majority in the 577-seat parliament.

With most election results, the NFP has 179 seats guaranteedfollowed by President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble coalition with 157 seats, according to the Financial Times parliamentary election tracker. Ensemble has around 250 seats in the outgoing National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Le Pen’s party was pushed into third place by a tactic known as Republican Front, won 143 seats. However, this is a significant increase compared to the 88 seats of the National Assembly in the previous session.

French President Emmanuel Macron has gambled by holding early parliamentary elections © Mohammed Badra/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

There were gasps of horror and tears at the RN’s main election meeting as the first results were released by pollsters on Sunday.

However, Le Pen said her party’s victory had only been “delayed” and that “the far-right wave is rising”.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an anti-capitalist and leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party within the NFP, struck a combative tone in calling on Macron to appoint a left-wing prime minister.

“The president has the power, the duty to call the New Populist Front to power,” he said, pledging to implement a high-tax, high-spending NFP that has spooked investors.

“The will of the people must be strictly respected… The defeat of the president and his coalition has been confirmed,” Mélenchon said.

Hastily formed after Macron called early elections last month, the NFP also includes the centrist Parti Socialiste (PS), the Communist Party and the Greens.

The expected result was greeted with jubilation at the PS election event in Belleville, Paris, with chants of “front populaire” and a round of La Marseillaise.

“It’s fantastic! Of course it’s fantastic,” Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, the PS mayor of Rouen and a leading figure in the party, told the FT.

The NFP’s economic programme would be a major break from Macron’s business-friendly agenda and tax cuts.

The euro fell 0.3 percent against the dollar after predictions that the left-wing party would win the most seats in parliament.

Marine Le Pen has expressed great hopes for the RN in the election. © Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

France is heading for a period of political instability that will have consequences for both France and the EU, given Paris’s outsized role, along with Germany, in influencing the bloc’s policy.

In the French electoral system, the president chooses the prime minister, who usually comes from the party with the largest number of representatives in the National Assembly even if it does not have an absolute majority.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who took office in January and led the Ensemble campaign, said he would step down on Monday but stay on as caretaker for as long as needed.

Although Mélenchon is positioning himself as prime minister, other factions within the NFP have strongly opposed the idea and are also eyeing the position.

Macron and his allies have ruled out forming a government with either the LFI or the RN.

Instead, Ensemble officials will approach moderates within the NFP, such as the Socialists and Greens, and conservatives Les Republicains, to gauge interest in working together, an Elysée official said.

However, enforcing this type of agreement can be difficult due to differences between the parties.

The last resort would be to form a technocratic government led by an experienced but non-partisan leader, although this is completely out of French political tradition.

Although the results were much better than Macron expected, his authority will still be weakened after the election.

In June, Macron gambled by calling an early vote after his centrist Ensemble coalition was defeated by Le Pen’s RN party in the European parliamentary elections.

The president has defended the move, which has shocked and angered many, even in his own camp, as a necessary moment of “clarification.”

Bernard Sananes, head of pollster Elabe, said the results represented a “victory” for the centrist and left-wing parties that make up the “republican front”, adding that turnout had increased in key races with the far right.


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