Left leads French election in blow to Le Pen’s far right, Macron

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French political parties faced a daunting task to put together a government on Sunday after the second round of elections threw up a hung parliament, with a leftist alliance unexpectedly taking the top spot ahead of the far right.

The results, based on pollsters’ projections, were a setback for Marine Le Pen’s nationalist, eurosceptic National Rally (RN), which opinion polls had predicted would be the largest party, but which placed only third.

They were also a blow for centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who called the ballot after his ticket was trounced in a European Parliament election last month.

French President Emmanuel Macron and French First Lady Brigitte Macron exit the polling station after casting their votes in the second round of French parliamentary elections in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France, 07 July 2024. (Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron and French First Lady Brigitte Macron exit the polling station after casting their votes in the second round of French parliamentary elections in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France, 07 July 2024. (Reuters)

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The election will leave parliament divided in three big groups - the left, centrists, and the far right, with hugely different platforms and no tradition at all of working together.

What comes next is uncertain.

The left, which wants to cap prices of essential goods like fuel and food, raise the minimum wage to a net 1,600 euros per month, hike wages for public sector workers and impose a wealth tax, immediately said it wanted to govern.

“The will of the people must be strictly respected ... the president must invite the New Popular Front to govern,” said hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of French far-left opposition party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed - LFI), and member of the alliance of left-wing parties, called the Nouveau Front Populaire (New Popular Front - NFP), wave to supporters after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, at Place Stalingrad in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)
Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of French far-left opposition party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed - LFI), and member of the alliance of left-wing parties, called the Nouveau Front Populaire (New Popular Front - NFP), wave to supporters after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, at Place Stalingrad in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)

But the awkward New Popular Front (NFP) alliance, hastily put together before the vote, is far from an absolute majority.

The euro fell on Sunday after the vote projections were announced.

“There’s really going to be a vacuum when it comes to France’s legislative ability,” said Simon Harvey, head of FX analysis at Monex Europe.

A key question is whether the leftist alliance, which gathers the hard left, Greens and Socialists will stay united and agree on what course to take.

The constitution does not oblige Macron to ask the group to form a government, though that would be the usual step as it is the biggest group in parliament.

Melenchon, leader of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI), ruled out a broad coalition of parties of different stripes and said Macron had a duty to call on the leftist alliance to rule.

Macron’s centrist group “Together” looked set to come second, just ahead of the RN, according to the pollsters’ projections based on early results.

People gather at the Place de la Republique after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)
People gather at the Place de la Republique after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)

The Ipsos polling agency forecast the RN would get 120-134 seats, and its allies 14-18, out of the 577 seats in parliament. Elabe pollsters projected the RN and allies would win 136-144.

That was a far cry from weeks during which opinion polls consistently projected the RN would win comfortably, before the left and centrist alliances cooperated by pulling scores of candidates from three-way races to build a unified anti-RN vote.

In his first reaction, RN leader Jordan Bardella called the cooperation between anti-RN forces, known as the “republican front” a “disgraceful alliance” that he said would paralyze France.

Jordan Bardella, President of the French far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally - RN) party, delivers a speech on stage after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)
Jordan Bardella, President of the French far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally - RN) party, delivers a speech on stage after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)

‘Victory delayed’

Marine Le Pen, who will be the party’s candidate for the 2027 presidential election, said Sunday’s ballot, in which the RN made major gains compared with previous elections, had sown the seeds for the future.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen reacts surrounded by journalists after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, at the French far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally - RN) party venue Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen reacts surrounded by journalists after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, at the French far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally - RN) party venue Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)

“Our victory has been merely delayed,” she said.

The leftist alliance, whose parties have long been at odds with each other, was forecast to win between 171 and 187 seats in the Ipsos poll. Elabe pollsters saw the leftist alliance with 182-193 seats.

Cries of joy and tears of relief broke out at its gathering in Paris when the voting projections were announced. At the Greens’ headquarters activists screamed in joy, embracing each other.

“I’m relieved. As a French-Moroccan, a doctor, an ecologist activist, what the far right was proposing to do as a government was craziness,” said 34-year-old Hafsah Hachad.

In Macron’s entourage, there was no indication of his next move.

“The question we’re going to have to ask ourselves tonight and in the coming days is: which coalition is capable of reaching the 289 seats to govern?”, one person close to him told Reuters.

Some in his alliance, including former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, envisaged a broad cross-party alliance but said it could not include the far-left France Unbowed.

On the more moderate left, Raphael Glucksmann, from the Socialist Party, urged his alliance partners to act like “grown-ups.”

“We’re ahead, but we’re in a divided parliament,” he said. “We’re going to have to talk, to discuss, to engage in dialogue.”

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced on Sunday following the leftist win that he will hand his resignation to President Emmanuel Macron on Monday morning, adding he will carry out his functions as long as required.

Gabriel Attal, French Prime Minister and French presidential majority group Ensemble pour la Republique candidate, leaves after his speech following partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, at Hotel Matignon in Paris in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)
Gabriel Attal, French Prime Minister and French presidential majority group Ensemble pour la Republique candidate, leaves after his speech following partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections, at Hotel Matignon in Paris in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. (Reuters)

Official results were trickling in, with the votes from most, if not all, constituencies likely to be in by the end of the day or the early hours of Monday.

Voters have punished Macron and his ruling alliance for a cost of living crisis and failing public services, as well as over immigration and security.

Le Pen and her party tapped into those grievances, spreading their appeal way beyond their traditional strongholds along the Mediterranean coast and in the country’s northern rust belt, but their gains compared with previous elections proved insufficient to win power.

‘A lot of hope’


As the first projections showed the left in the lead of France’s parliamentary polls, against all expectations, a large crowd of left-wing activists erupted in joy in Paris.

“I’m really happy, there’s this crazy energy and I’m getting the chills,” said Marie Delille, a philosophy student, in the capital’s Stalingrad Square.

“It feels good right now, but we’re still waiting for the final results,” she added at the gathering of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party.

Nearby, fellow LFI activist Dalil Diab was also visibly moved.

“We’re relieved, there’s a lot of hope. There’s a lot of hope for the future of France, for the left,” said the young man who works in transport logistics.

Hugo Chevalley, a history student, was more tempered in his enthusiasm.

“It’s a victory, but it’s a relative victory,” he said, referring to the large chunk of seats the RN is likely to have gained.

“So, we have to continue to fight. It’s not over... But it’s a relief, that’s for sure. We weren’t expecting it.”

Hundreds of supporters of the left-wing New Popular Front also gathered to celebrate in the capital’s Republique Square.

“We’ve won, we’ve won,” members of the crowd chanted under a blue, white and red France flag marked with the words “France is weaved from migrations”.

“No to the RN, no to Macron,” read one placard held up by a participant.

In another part of Paris, the mood was less festive for the RN, where leader Jordan Bardella accused the president’s party and left of “electoral arrangements”.

Olivier Mondet, a 64-year-old nurse, was annoyed that so many people had voted against the far right.

“They tell the French people any old thing and they swallow it all up. They’re manipulating them,” he said.

Cecilia Djennad, 32, said she was disappointed.

“People have been demonising the RN for years. The extreme left plays on people’s fear,” she said.

But “I won’t give up,” she added, looking forward to local elections planned for 2026.

Among a group of young party followers dressed in suits and ties for the occasion, history student Noah Ludon also remained optimistic.

“The RN is a high-speed train. Our voters are increasing,” he said.

“Victory will come next time.”

Europe’s reaction

A senior member of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s party said Sunday that France had “avoided the worst” after projections showed the far right losing the second round of legislative elections.

“The worst is avoided, the RN cannot form a governing majority,” Nils Schmid, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) foreign policy spokesman in the German parliament, told the Funke press group.

Macron is “politically weakened” because his group lost a significant number of seats but “retains a central role” with no party claiming an outright majority, Schmid added.

Forming a government will be “tricky” and parties must show “flexibility” and an “ability to compromise”, said Schmid, whose country has long been used to drawn-out negotiations leading to seemingly unwieldy coalitions.

Scholz’s government is made up of his SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP. But French politics is unaccustomed to such arrangements.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Sunday hailed France’s “rejection of the far right” after a left-wing coalition was projected to form the largest group in parliament in snap legislative elections.

France opted for a “rejection of the far right” and “a social left that tackles the people’s problems with serious and brave policies,” the socialist premier wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Sanchez welcomed the shock result alongside this week’s UK general election where the centre-left Labour party achieved a landslide victory over the Conservatives.

He said both countries “have said YES to progress and social progress and NO to going back on rights and freedoms. You don’t make deals or govern with the far right.”

With agencies

Read more:

How France’s Macron went from a successful political newcomer to a weakened leader

Far-right historic bid for French govt dominates legislative election first round

As France votes, Europe holds its breath

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