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French election:surprise win for Left, EU leaders 'relieved'

French election:surprise win for Left, EU leaders 'relieved'

Nationalists beaten but uncertainty as parties try to form govt

ROME, 10 July 2024, 14:40

ANSA English Desk



The French left-wing alliance New Popular Front has won a surprise victory in Sunday's legislative elections. Some EU leaders are hailing the result as a relief for European integration, averting a French government led by nationalists and eurosceptics. France now enters a period of political uncertainty as it tries to form a new government.
    Contrary to all expectations and polls prior to Sunday's French legislative elections, the left-wing alliance New Popular Front (NFP) came out on top in the second round of voting - ahead of current President Emmanuel Macron's liberal Together (Ensemble) bloc, to which his party Renaissance belongs, while pushing Marine Le Pen's far-right populist National Rally (RN) party to third place.
    The outcome has plunged the country into political uncertainty unprecedented in its recent history.
    France voted in the final round of snap legislative elections which French President Emmanuel Macron called after his camp suffered losses in last month's European Parliament elections.
    RN, led by the 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, won the most votes (37.1 percent) at the time.
    With 577 seats in the French National Assembly, the latest projections put the NFP in first place with 188 seats. Macron's Together alliance and Le Pen's RN followed with 161 and 142 seats respectively.
    The NFP - formed only last month - brought the previously deeply divided Socialists, Greens, Communists and France Unbowed (LFI) together as one party alliance. In the European elections at the beginning of June, the parties still ran individually.
    The biggest NFP component is the hard-left LFI of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a divisive figure who is anathema to the right and centre and has alienated many fellow leftists. The alliance's main program lines included a huge increase of the minimum wage as well as cancelling the pension reform in France, reducing the retirement age back to 62 years.
    Mélenchon was quick to demand that the president Macron appoints a prime minister from the left alliance. He said that the NFP "has to implement its program and only its program", and refused to enter into negotiations with Macron's coalition.
    European Union leaders "relieved" after French vote Sunday's result came as a surprise in France. After the first round of voting on June 30, forecasts saw the RN win just under an absolute majority of 289 seats and thus possibly in a position to form the next government - with Bardella poised to become the next prime minister.
    Despite this strong setback, the RN - driven by its anti-immigration stance - achieved a historic result (142 seats) in the second round of voting on Sunday, scoring well above the 89 deputies it won in 2022. That already represented an exceptional jump from the eight they had in 2017. "The tide continues to rise and our victory today has only been delayed," said the president of the RN party in the French National Assembly, Le Pen.
    France's EU partners are relieved that Le Pen's eurosceptic outfit will not come to power, where they could endanger future European integration and Western support for Ukraine. A French government of right-wing nationalists and Eurosceptics striving to curb the influence of the EU in France seems to have been averted.
    Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez praised the "rejection of the radical right" on Sunday. France opted for "a social left that tackles the people's problems with serious and courageous policies", the socialist politician said on X.
    Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also said on Sunday evening that he was "happy" with the result. "In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief," the former European Council president said.
    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also told reporters he was "relieved", adding that "we hope that the president and the elected MPs will manage to bring about a constructive government".
    French electoral system key to leftist victory Although Sunday's elections saw the left NFP leading in terms of seats, the far-right RN and its allies were by far the party with the most votes with around 37 percent compared to 26 percent for the NFP. Macron's liberal Together alliance came in third with around 24 percent of the votes.
    In the French electoral system, the winning candidate securing the majority of votes in each of the 577 constituencies would be directly elected for a seat in the National Assembly.
    The left and Macron's centre forces had formed a coalition of convenience before the second round of voting. In order not to take votes away from each other in constituencies in which three candidates made it to the second round, candidates from the left or centre blocs in several constituencies withdrew strategically. That way, the remaining candidate had a better chance of beating the RN candidate. NFP and Together both called on their voters to vote against the RN in any case.
    Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the far-right RN party was the "convincing relative winner" of the French elections because it received the most votes, but its victory was prevented by the country's electoral system. "The message has remained and will be seen very soon, in a little less than three years when French presidential elections take place," he added.
    Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also said that "if we look at what happened in France, no one can claim victory". She added that "none of the three established themselves, none of the three are capable of governing alone".


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