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France: Candidates exit runoff in tactic to stop far-right

July 2, 2024

Scores of candidates opposed to France's far-right National Rally party bowed out of a second round of voting. The tactic aims to unite the NR's oppenents and their voters.

Vandalized posters with images of local candidates for the European Parliament election mixed with those from the first round of the 2024 French legislative elections
The fate of the remaining 501 seats will be determined in next Sunday's run-offsImage: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Over 200 opponents of France's National Rally (RN) party on Tuesday withdrew as candidates from next Sunday's second round of voting as they seek a so-called "republican front" against the far-right.

President Emmanuel Macron's centrists and the broad NFP left-wing grouping hope to stop the far-right from taking power in the lower house of parliament after it won roughly 33% of the vote at the first round last Sunday.

Macron plans to prevent 'absolute majority' for far right

What we know so far

Roughly 210 pro-Macron and left-wing candidates withdrew from competing in Sunday's second round for the 577-seat national parliament by a Tuesday evening deadline.

Macron's camp has started cooperating with the NFP, hopeful that tactical voting will prevent RN and certain aligned candidates from winning the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority.

The tactical withdrawals would be accompanied by cross-party calls for voters to back whichever candidate is best placed to defeat their local RN rival.

Macron decided to call a snap election after a poor showing in European elections last month, with RN gaining 31.4% of the vote compared with 14.6% for Ensemble.

The decision, which some analysts think may have been an effort to test the public — or RN's capacity to govern — is widely considered to have backfired.

While RN swept up a third of the first-round vote for the National Assembly, France's lower house, the left-wing New Popular Front garnered 28% and Macron's Ensemble managed just over 20%.

What happens next?

Only 76 lawmakers, mostly from the far-right and left, were elected outright in the first round of voting.

The fate of the remaining 501 seats will be determined in run-offs between two or three remaining candidates or, in some instances, four.

While most projections show that RN will fail to clinch an absolute majority next Sunday, the situation remains unclear.

Under France's two-round voting system, anyone with more than 12.5% of the vote is eligible for the second round, but they are not obliged to stand. Whoever secures the most votes in the second round wins the seat, they do not need an absolute majority.

RN leader Marine Le Pen has urged voters to give RN an absolute majority in parliament, a development that would see her protege, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, become prime minister.

Should that happen, there would be a tense period of "cohabitation" between Bardella's RN-led government and Macron, who has promised to complete his term until 2027.

The "republican front" famously proved successful in 2002 when voters of rival stripes rallied behind Jacques Chirac to stop Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, in a presidential contest. Similar tactics have been employed in later elections too.

Another potential outcome could be a hung parliament that could usher in a period of political paralysis.

rc/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)