Far-right ‘at the gates of power’ after historic France election result

The political earthquake that France woke up to Monday was no less seismic because it may have been predictable.

The far-right swept to victory in the first round of legislative elections after President Emmanuel Macron’s almighty gamble backfired. Now the centrist leader and the country’s left, reeling from the historic results, are scrambling to thwart the National Rally (RN) in the decisive second round and prevent France’s first far-right government since the Nazi occupation in World War Two.

According to official results released by the country’s interior ministry early Monday, Marine Le Pen’s party and allies led the way with 33% of the vote, a bloc of left-wing parties followed in second with 28% and Macron’s centrist alliance trailed in third with just 20%.

Turnout was unusually high, adding to the sense of volatility.

The results largely track opinion polls released ahead of the snap vote, called by Macron after his party took a beating from the RN in European Parliament elections last month. 

But it was a clear rebuke all the same for the president and his governing party.

“The lesson is that the extreme right is at the gates of power,” Macron’s prime minister, Gabriel Attal, said in an address to the nation as the results became clear Sunday night.

French voters propelled the far-right National Rally to a strong lead in first-round legislative elections Sunday and plunged the country into political uncertainty, according to polling projections.
Supporters of the far-right leader celebrated at an election watch party in Henin-Beaumont, northern France on Sunday.Thibault Camus / AP

The question now is whether the left and center blocs will be able to form tactical alliances to block the RN in the final runoff vote, which takes place July 7.

“Our objective is clear,” Attal said. “Prevent the RN from having an absolute majority.”

The left-wing alliance, the New Popular Front, also said it would withdraw candidates in places where they were in third place to prevent votes being split between those opposed to the far-right.

While it’s not clear if the populist, anti-immigration RN can achieve an absolute legislative majority in the second round, if it claims the greatest number of seats in the French National Assembly it would be a dramatic moment in the country’s political history.

The vote will take place just over two weeks ahead of the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympics. 

“Democracy has spoken,” the party’s ideological leader Marine Le Pen, whose father Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the movement, said in remarks broadcast live on French television late Sunday.

The bloc led by Macron has been “practically erased,” Le Pen said.

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