Far Right Wins First Round in French Election


Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party won the first round of France’s parliamentary election on Sunday, exit polls showed, but the final result will depend on days of horse trading before next week’s run-off.

The RN was seen winning around 34 percent of the vote, exit polls from Ipsos, Ifop, OpinionWay and Elabe showed.

That was ahead of leftist and centrist rivals, including President Emmanuel Macron’s Together alliance, whose bloc was seen winning 20.5 – 23 percent. The New Popular Front , a hastily assembled left-wing coalition, was projected to win around 29 percent of the vote, the exit polls showed.

The exit polls were in line with opinion polls ahead of the election, but provided little clarity on whether the anti-immigrant, eurosceptic RN will be able to form a government to “cohabit” with the pro-EU Macron after next Sunday’s run-off.

The RN’s chances of winning power next week will depend on the political dealmaking made by its rivals over the coming days. In the past, centre-right and centre-left parties have teamed up to keep the RN from power, but that dynamic, known as the “republican front,” is less certain than ever.

If no candidate reaches 50 percent in the first round, the top two contenders automatically qualify for the second round, as well as all those with 12.5 percent of registered voters. In the run-off, whoever wins the most votes take the constituency.

High turnout on Sunday suggests France is heading for a record number of three-way run-offs. These generally benefit the RN much more than two-way contests, experts say.

The horsetrading began almost immediately on Sunday night.

In a written statement to the press, Macron called on voters to rally behind candidates who are “clearly republican and democratic,” which, based on his recent declarations, would exclude candidates from the RN and from the hard-left France Unbowed party

LFI leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said the second-placed NFP alliance will withdraw all its candidates who came third in the first round.

“Our guideline is simple and clear: not a single more vote for the National Rally,” he said.

Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old RN party president, said he was ready to be prime minister – if his party wins an absolute majority. He has ruled out trying to form a minority government and neither Macron nor the NFP will form an alliance with him.

“I will be a ‘cohabitation’ Prime Minister, respectful of the constitution and of the office of President of the Republic, but uncompromising about the policies we will implement,” he said.

The RN was seen winning the most seats in the National Assembly, but only one of the pollsters – Elabe – had the party winning an absolute majority of 289 seats in the run-off.

Experts say that seat projections after first-round votes can be highly inaccurate, and especially so in this election.

Voter participation was high compared with previous parliamentary elections, illustrating the political fervour Macron aroused with his stunning decision to call a parliamentary vote after the RN trounced his party in European Parliament elections earlier this month.

His decision plunged France into political uncertainty, sent shockwaves around Europe and prompted a sell-off of French assets on financial markets.

A longtime pariah, the RN is now closer to power than it has ever been. Le Pen has sought to clean up the image of a party known for racism and antisemitism, a tactic that has worked amid voter anger at Macron, the high cost of living and growing concerns over immigration.

At 15:00 GMT, turnout was nearly 60 percent, compared with 39.42 percent two years ago – the highest comparable turnout figures since the 1986 legislative vote, Ipsos France’s research director Mathieu Gallard said.

By Juliette Jabkhiro and Layli Foroudi

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