Far-Right Surge: National Rally Leads in French Parliamentary Elections, Threatening Political Upheaval

Feature and Cover Far Right Surge National Rally Leads in French Parliamentary Elections Threatening Political Upheaval

France’s far-right has surged ahead after the initial round of parliamentary elections, solidifying their influence in French politics and inching closer to power.

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN), known for its anti-immigration stance, celebrated as she declared the president’s “Macronist bloc has been all but wiped out.” RN garnered 33.1% of the vote, followed by a left-wing alliance with 28%, and the Macron camp trailing with 20.76%.

Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old leader of RN, expressed his ambition: “I aim to be prime minister for all the French people, if the French give us their votes.”

This unprecedented success marks a historic moment, noted by veteran commentator Alain Duhamel. RN and Bardella are eyeing an absolute majority of 289 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly. However, projections for next Sunday’s run-off votes suggest they might fall short.

A hung parliament could be on the horizon if RN doesn’t secure the majority, hindering their ability to implement plans on immigration, tax cuts, and law enforcement.

President Emmanuel Macron had no obligation to call this election but deemed it the “most responsible solution” following RN’s victory in European elections. This gamble now risks reshaping the political landscape, with 10.6 million votes cast for RN, including support from some conservative Republicans.

Turnout hit 66.7%, the highest for a parliamentary first round since 1997, highlighting the significance of this quick campaign that lasted just three weeks.

Following the first round, 37 RN MPs have secured their seats by winning over half the votes, while the left-wing New Popular Front has elected 32 MPs. This outcome has shocked many, prompting hundreds of left-wing voters to gather in Place de la République in Paris, expressing their outrage at RN’s success.

President Macron remained mostly silent, leaving Prime Minister Gabriel Attal to address the nation. Macron did, however, call for a “broad, clearly democratic and republican alliance for the second round.”

In a somber speech outside Hôtel Matignon, Attal urged, “Not a single vote must go to the National Rally,” emphasizing the need to prevent RN from achieving an absolute majority.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of France Unbowed (LFI), concurred: “One thing is for sure, Mr. Attal won’t be prime minister any longer.” Despite being labeled extremist by rivals, LFI is the largest group within the New Popular Front, which nearly matched RN’s vote count.

RN’s rise has been a long journey from the extreme-right fringes to mainstream acceptance, with one in three French voters now supporting them. Their young and charismatic leader, Bardella, could potentially become the next prime minister. RN’s policy proposals include banning mobile phones in classrooms, cutting energy taxes, and removing benefits from foreigners.

In eastern Paris, a voter named Patrick highlighted a key issue: “People aren’t happy when there’s insecurity on the streets.”

Eric Ciotti, a conservative leader who split from the Republican party to ally with RN, described this collaboration as “unprecedented and historic,” adding, “Victory is in sight.”

Commentator Pierre Haski warned that France has entered uncharted territory with potentially negative outcomes. He noted, “That’s why a lot of people are angry with President Macron.”

While RN has a chance of achieving an absolute majority, a hung parliament is a more likely scenario, with RN holding the most seats. The New Popular Front could also gain ground, supported by voters from other parties.

Next Sunday’s run-off will feature duels between two parties or three-way races, significantly more than the last election due to high turnout. More than 300 third-placed candidates qualified for these “triangular” battles.

The local constituency level will now decide whether the third-placed candidate will withdraw to prevent RN from winning the seat. Prime Minister Attal asserted that in “several hundred” constituencies, his party’s candidates are best positioned to block RN.

Attal stressed the moral duty to prevent the far right from “governing the country with its disastrous project.” Many centrist candidates who placed third are expected to step aside if a Socialist, Green, or Communist rival stands a better chance against RN.

However, most are likely to resist yielding to Mélenchon’s party. Yet, one Macron candidate, Albane Branlant, who finished third, has stepped down to give LFI’s Francois Ruffin a better chance. Branlant explained, “I draw a line between political rivals and enemies of the republic.”

Mélenchon stated that his candidates would also withdraw where they are third and RN is leading. Former President François Hollande echoed this sentiment: “We have an imperative duty to ensure that the far right cannot win a majority in the Assembly.”

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