France election live: first-round results give far-right alliance 33% of vote, as PM warns Le Pen at ‘gates of power’

The far-right National Rally (RN) party and its allies reached 33% of the national popular vote in the first round of parliamentary elections, the interior ministry has said.

The leftwing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance came in second with 28% while President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Together coalition reached 20%, the ministry said.

The result marks the first time the RN has won more than 20% of the vote in a parliamentary election and puts the party within reach of forming the country’s first ever far-right elected government.

However the final results and the exact makeup of the 577-seat parliament are far from certain and the RN’s chances of winning power will depend on the political dealmaking made by its rivals over the coming days, ahead of Sunday’s second round.

In the past, the traditional right and leftwing parties have struck agreements to stand down candidates from the runoffs to avoid splitting the vote against the RN. But the tactical voting strategy known as the “republican front” to block the RN is less certain than ever.

The leader of the NFP, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, said the leftist alliance would withdraw all its candidates who came third in the first round, saying: “Our guideline is simple and clear: not a single more vote for the National Rally.”

In a written statement, Macron called on voters to rally behind candidates who are “clearly republican and democratic”.

But based on his recent declarations while that would include candidates representing the NFP’s more moderate leftwing parties it would exclude candidates from Mélenchon’s France Unbowed.

The highest turnout rate yesterday was among French voters over the age of 65, according to an IFOP study.

Here’s the latest from IFOP on yesterday’s high turnout of 66.7%, compared to 47.5% in 2022.

Here are some thoughts from Ngaire Woods, professor of global economic governance and dean at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government.

The striking shift to the far-right amongst young people, enabling parties like National Rally in France to make significant gains, has led global politicians to strengthen their stance on issues like immigration.

But this does not account for one of the most powerful driving forces behind this new youth politics of disaffection – a sense of betrayal by establishment politicians. While older generations consume a swelling share of government budgets through pensions and social care, young people across Europe face shrinking economic prospects and insecure employment.

While some progress has been made in reducing youth unemployment – in France it has decreased from 25% in 2016 to 15.7% in 2023 – there is far more to be done to win back young voters.

Politicians must now consider both their message and their medium, harnessing social media as a tool for broader engagement rather than simply announcement, fostering dialogue rather than treating it as a focus group. As we see in Bardella’s rise to power through TikTok, powerful movements can be mobilised when young people feel heard. Politicians must give them reasons for hope on the horizon and engage in the digital channels where they find information and expression.

The far right Hungarian government is celebrating the Macron camp’s poor performance in Sunday’s vote.

“Biden, Macron… change is coming,” wrote Balázs Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister’s political director in a social media post.

The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has expressed concern over the far right National Rally’s gains in France, Reuters reported.

“It cannot leave anyone unmoved if, in our own country, for example in the European elections, or in our closest partner and best friend, a party that sees Europe as the problem and not the solution is far ahead,” she said.

Sylvie Casenave-Péré, a candidate from Macron’s camp, has withdrawn from a three-way race where Marine Le Pen’s sister, Marie-Caroline Le Pen, was in the lead in the first round.

The other candidate, Élise Leboucher, represents France Unbowed.

France Unbowed’s Clémentine Autain said that the “neither nor” approach of some centrists who are opposed to voting both for the National Rally (RN) and France Unbowed (LFI) “has only one winner: the far right.”

Christelle Morançais, regional council president for the Pays de la Loire, has said that in case of a faceoff between the National Rally and the New Popular Front “my personal position is clear: blank vote.”

Clément Beaune, a Macron ally, has pointed to the upcoming British election in his plea for France not to turn to the far right.

“At a time when our British friends are about to turn the page from demagogic nationalism, let’s not dive into it. Coming out of it is long and painful,” he said.

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, has issued a warning about the far right.

“They love Putin, money and power without control. And they are already in power or are reaching for it in the East or West of Europe,” he wrote on social media.

“They are joining ranks in the European Parliament. In Poland, we reversed this fatal tide at the very last moment. Let’s not waste it,” he added.

A big debate following the first round is the role of the controversial France Unbowed (LFI) party, which forms part of the left wing New Popular Front alliance.

Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister and Macron ally, said this morning that “for me, France Unbowed is a danger for the nation, just as the National Rally is a danger for the Republic.”

France’s Unbowed’s Eric Coquerel argued that “all those who continue in the former majority to put a line of equality between LFI [France Unbowed] and the RN [National Rally] affirm that for them, it is not a problem to give the majority to the RN.”

“Am I to understand that you don’t dare debate with me?” wrote Marine Tondelier, national secretary of Europe Ecology – The Greens, in response to the far right National Rally’s Jordan Bardella.

Bardella said he is ready to debate with France Unbowed’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, but Tondelier said it was her turn to represent the New Popular Front.

Le Monde’s front page today speaks volumes. Brown shows where the National Rally came first in the first round (many constituencies will now go to a second-round run-off).

Paul Taylor, a senior visiting fellow at the European Policy Centre, has just written this sobering opinion piece for the Guardian. In it, he looks at the national and international consequences of Macron’s gamble.

President Emmanuel Macron’s gamble of dissolving parliament and seeking a “clarification” from voters after an ultra-short three-week campaign backfired spectacularly on his own supporters …

The Macron era is over, even if the president stays in the Élysée palace until his term ends in 2027. The electorate overwhelmingly rejected him for the second time in a month. His hold on both domestic and European policy will be seriously diminished, whatever the outcome of next week’s run-offs.

France, a founder member and driving force in the European Union, a G7 economy, nuclear power and permanent member of the UN security council, is set to become a more awkward, inwardly focused partner in EU and Nato negotiations, a less enthusiastic supporter of Ukraine and a brake on further European integration.

Whether the RN wins an absolute majority in next Sunday’s second round and Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protege, becomes prime minister, or whether it falls short and France endures a period of instability with a hung parliament, it is only a matter of time now before the Eurosceptic France-first nationalists gets its day in government.

 

Updated: Juli 1, 2024 — 12:43 pm

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