Macron and left thwart far right in French election, polls say

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France’s anti far-right alliance is on track to halt the rise of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, in a snap parliamentary election that leaves the Eurozone’s second-largest economy in limbo over its next government.

Provisional estimates from four pollsters suggest the RN, which was hoping to secure an outright majority in the National Assembly, may have been pushed into second or third place in the high-stakes election.

The projections suggest that the leftwing alliance Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) could become the largest parliamentary force with anywhere from 170 to 215 seats, according to Ipsos, Ifop, OpinionWay and Elabe. But President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists were running close behind, with pollsters predicting ranges of 140 to 180 seats, a big drop from the roughly 250 they held in the outgoing National Assembly.

The projected results suggest that the co-ordinated anti-RN strategy, under which the left and centre tactically withdrew their candidates from run-offs, had paid off. Only a week ago after the first round, Le Pen was still confidently predicting that a governing majority was within her reach.

Marine Le Pen had high hopes for the results of the election © Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

If confirmed in final voting tallies, the projections suggest that none of the three main blocs will be able easily to command a governing majority, potentially leaving France in a period of political gridlock.

The uncertainty will have repercussions both for France and the EU, given Paris’ outsized role in influencing policy together with Germany. Markets had been jittery before the first round when the RN was polling strongly, but have since calmed as a hung parliament appeared more likely.

In the French system, the president chooses the prime minister, who typically comes from the party with the biggest delegation in the National Assembly even if they do not have an outright majority. 

Macron could seek to cobble together a coalition of MPs from different parties on the left, centre and right, but excluding the RN and the far-left La France Insoumise (LFI). Such an arrangement would amount to a “cohabitation”, and forging such a deal might prove difficult given the parties’ wide policy differences. 

Jordan Bardella, 28-year-old president of the RN © Benoit Tessier/Reuters

A last resort would be naming a technocratic government to be led by an experienced but non-partisan figure, although such an arrangement is not at all in the French political tradition. 

While the projections are far better than expected for Macron, his authority will still emerge weakened from the snap election.

Macron in early June took a gamble in calling for the early vote after his centrist Ensemble alliance was trounced by Marine Le Pen’s far-right RN in European parliamentary elections. The president defended the move, which stunned and angered many even in his own camp, as a necessary moment of “clarification”.

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