NewsMacron's centrists suffer setback as France braces for runoff showdown

Macron's centrists suffer setback as France braces for runoff showdown

Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron
Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron
Images source: © East News, PAP | AFP, FRANCOIS LO PRESTI, YARA NARDI
Adam Zygiel

1 July 2024 08:01

The far-right won the first round of the parliamentary elections in France. However, their opponents are devising a strategy to block the nationalists' march to power. "A majority for the far-right is not a foregone conclusion," said Amanda Dziubińska from PISM in an interview with Wirtualna Polska. "The election results are a defeat for Macron," she added.

On Sunday, the French went to the polls to vote in the first round of early parliamentary elections. On Monday, the French Ministry of the Interior reported that in the first round of parliamentary elections, the far-right National Rally and its allies obtained 33.2% of the vote. The left-wing New People's Front secured 28%, President Emmanuel Macron's centrist camp gained 20%, and the right-wing Republicans received 6.6%.

"The results confirm what we have seen in the polls over the last three weeks - an excellent result for the far-right. Marine Le Pen has reason to be happy because it's a great success for her party," said Amanda Dziubińska, an expert on France from the Polish Institute of International Affairs, in an interview with Wirtualna Polska.

"It's also a great success in terms of voter mobilisation. We have a very high turnout, which in recent years in parliamentary elections was relatively low. This also shows what Emmanuel Macron thought: that the French wanted clarification. They wanted to show that what happened in the European Parliament elections on 9th June was not just a vote of frustration and typical protest vote associated with that election but a real trend," she emphasised.

Macron's and the left's last lifeline

Politicians are already implementing a strategy for the second round. A candidate wins a mandate to the French parliament if they obtain more than half of the votes in the first round with a turnout exceeding 25%. This is extremely difficult, so there is a second round in many constituencies. Those who received over 12.5% of the votes in the first round make it to the second round.

"There are parties that already declare that in the case of 'three-way' duels in the second round, individual candidates will withdraw to avoid splitting the vote," said the PISM expert.

"This is an electoral strategy that will favour concentrating the vote of left-wing and centrist voters around one candidate to prevent the far-right from gaining power," she emphasised.

The second round will take place on 7th July. The following week will be politically heated in France.

"In the first round, we had a situation where the left and right attacked each other, but they also attacked the centre. We see that the situation will be different in the second round, and the far-right will be most frequently attacked," said Dziubińska.

An absolute majority in the French parliament requires 289 deputies. The number of seats the parties will receive is still a "big unknown."

"The current estimates based on exit polls may flatten in the second round. It will depend on the other parties' strategies: whether they withdraw their candidates and how many 'three-way' duels we will have. The higher the turnout, the more candidates will make it to the second round. But if parties take a consistent stance and there are more 'two-way' duels than 'three-way' ones, a majority for the far-right is not a foregone conclusion," she said.

Macron's defeat

Looking at the election results, Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance Party is an obvious loser. It obtained the third-highest result, barely exceeding 20%.

"I think it's a significant defeat for President Macron's camp. It clearly shows that there was not high support among the French for his policies, and they poorly assessed his presidency and the last years of his rule. This is a clear signal for Macron's camp. Many French people found an alternative to this option. I think a large part of who supported Macron and his centre turned towards the left," said Dziubińska.

Jean-Luc Melenchon called for an alliance against Le Pen
Jean-Luc Melenchon called for an alliance against Le Pen© PAP | MOHAMMED BADRA

The left-wing alliance of the New People's Front was formed shortly before the elections. It includes, among others, the Socialist Party, which ruled years ago; the far-left Unsubmissive France; the French Communist Party; and the Green Party Europe Écologie Les Verts. The formation received about 29% of the votes.

"The party and figure burdening the New People's Front is Unsubmissive France and the figure of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. But his declaration today shows that he sees it and understands the mood of the French, how they perceive the left-wing movement and himself. He announced that his deputies will withdraw from the race to support the best candidate who will face a National Rally candidate. This is a clear signal to those who showed the red card to Macron that there is an alternative for them," said Dziubińska.

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