Far-right takes lead in French elections: But forming a government remains a major challenge

Far-right takes lead in French elections: But forming a government remains a major challenge
Far-right takes lead in French elections: But forming a government remains a major challenge

Exit polls after the first round of the French legislative elections indicate that the far-right National Rally party is leading with about 34% of the vote. The New Popular Front (a coalition of far-left to moderate-left parties) was second with about 28% and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition was a distant second with about 20%.

This is by far the largest number of votes the far right has received in a legislative election since the Second World War.

Although the National Rally led after the first round, alliances are likely to coalesce between left-wing, centrist and moderate-right political parties this week to form a united front against far-right candidates in most electorates in the second round.

That would likely make it very difficult for National Rally leader Marine Le Pen and President Jordan Bardella to win enough seats in the National Assembly next Sunday to win an absolute majority.

This second – and most crucial – round of early elections will determine whether France has a far-right government, a far-left government or a government of moderates united against extreme factions at both ends of the political spectrum.

Although the third solution seems more plausible than the other two, it may still not guarantee political stability. Diverse coalitions do not have a strong track record of stable government in France.

What happens now?

Although the National Rally led after the first round, it is unlikely to be able to form a government on its own. The reason: its ability to attract more voters in the coming days is limited. This has been a recurring problem for the far right in the second round of previous elections.

Only 67% of French voters cast their ballots on June 30. While that’s a high turnout for a first round of a legislative election in the last two decades, it also means that millions of French people could still swing the balance one way or the other in their electorate next Sunday.

Given France’s traumatic experience of World War II and its far-right Vichy government’s collaboration with the Nazis, some French people who did not vote in the first round may well turn out to prevent the far right from winning next Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on Sunday to demonstrate against the far right, suggesting a highly mobilized electorate.

More importantly, left, centrist and moderate right political parties will likely try to forge alliances at the local level to prevent the election of far-right MPs.

It is how it would workIf no candidate obtains an absolute majority in a race, the candidates with the two largest shares of the vote advance to the second round, as well as any other person who obtained at least 12.5% ​​of the vote.

So the leaders of the New Popular Front alliance and Macron’s alliance will now urge their candidates to withdraw from races in which they came in third, so that they can regroup behind a candidate against the far right.

The leaders of these parties still have strong divisions, but as said it Raphael Glucksmann, leader of the centre-left socialists:

We must unite, we must vote for our democracy, we must prevent France from sinking.

In addition to Gluncksmann, politicians as diverse as Marine Tondelier (the Greens), former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (moderate right), François Bayrou (centre), current Prime Minister Gabriel Attal (from Macron’s own party) and many others called for the creation of a “Republican Front” to defeat the National Rally within an hour of the publication of the first-round exit polls.

While this strategy has been successful in previous elections against the far right – and could work again – it does not necessarily mean that France will end up with a strong, united government when this is all over.

Eurasia Group, a risk analysis company, said that he The National Rally was unlikely to win an absolute majority in the National Assembly. The group’s director general, Mujtaba Rahman, stated that This means that France is heading towards:

impasse and confusion with an irreconcilably blocked National Assembly.

The coming days will be extraordinary for French politics as alliances are made (and perhaps some broken). The French, for their part, will hold their breath and ponder what all this means for the future of their country.

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