Leftwing surge thwarts far right in French election, polls suggest

France was heading towards a hung parliament on Sunday and rocky talks to form a government after an unexpected leftwing victory thwarted Marine Le Pen’s efforts to bring the far right to power.

Early projections by pollsters suggested a leftist coalition is on course to win the most seats in the high stakes snap election, a severe blow to Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party, which had seen a parliamentary majority within reach.

The outcome, if confirmed, would represent a resounding success for the co-ordinated anti-RN strategy, under which the left and centre tactically withdrew their candidates from run-off ballots.

But the result would leave the Eurozone’s second-largest economy in limbo over its next government, with no single bloc near an outright majority in the 577-seat National Assembly. 

Estimates based on early vote counts showed that the leftist Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) could become the largest force with between 170 and 215 seats, according to pollsters Ipsos, Ifop, OpinionWay and Elabe.

But President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance was running close behind, with pollsters predicting ranges of 140 to 180 seats, a big drop from the roughly 250 it held in the outgoing National Assembly.

Meanwhile Le Pen’s party was pushed into second or third place by the tactic known as the front republican, with pollsters estimating it would win up to 160 seats, almost doubling its presence compared to the previous assembly.

French President Emmanuel Macron gambled by holding a snap parliamentary election © Mohammed Badra/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

There were gasps of horror and tears at the RN electoral party as the first results estimates came in on Sunday.

A stunned silence replaced flag waving and chants that came after last week’s first round in the parliamentary election.

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

“The president has the power, the duty, to call on the Nouveau Front Populaire to govern,” he said, pledging to apply the high-tax, high-spending NFP programme that spooked investors.

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

Hastily formed after Macron’s called the snap election last month, the NFP also includes the centrist Parti Socialiste (PS), the Communists and Greens.

The projected results were met with elation at a PS election event in Belleville, Paris, with chants of “front populaire” and a round of La Marseillaise.

“It’s brilliant, of course it’s brilliant,” Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, the PS mayor of Rouen and a leading figure in the party, told the Financial Times.

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

The NFP’s economic programme would be a major break with Macron’s business friendly agenda and tax-cutting zeal.

The euro fell 0.3 per cent against the dollar after projections suggested the left had won the most seats in parliament.

France looks headed to a period of political uncertainty that will have repercussions both for France and the EU, given Paris’ outsized role in influencing the bloc’s policy, together with Germany.

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 it does not have an outright majority. 

France’s prime minister Gabriel Attal, who took office in January and led the Ensemble campaign, said he would step down on Monday but continue as caretaker as long as needed.

Ahead of the vote, Macron and his allies said they would be open to trying to form a coalition of MPs from different parties on the left, centre and right, but excluded the far-left LFI.

Such an arrangement would amount to a “cohabitation”, and forging this kind of deal might prove difficult given the parties’ wide policy differences.

Despite Melenchon positioning himself to become prime minister, other factions in the NFP have strongly opposed the idea and are gunning for the post as well.

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

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

Macron in June took a gamble in calling for the snap vote after his centrist Ensemble alliance was trounced by Le Pen’s 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”.

Bernard Sananes, head of the pollster Elabe, said the projected results represented a “victory” of the centrist and leftist parties forming a “front republicain”, saying turnout increased in key races against the far right.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button