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French election: Leftists win big, far right places third

Published July 7, 2024last updated July 8, 2024

The left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) landed a surprise win over the far-right National Rally (RN) in the second round of the 2024 French legislative election. No alliance, however, managed to land an absolute majority.

Rally following results of the second round of France's legislative election at Place de la Republique
Hundreds of people gathered in central Paris to celebrate the suprise results that saw the far right knocked down the third placeImage: Lionel Urman/ABACAPRESS/IMAGO

The leftist New Popular Front (NFP) grabbed the top spot in the second round of the French legislative election on Sunday in a shock result that saw the far-right drop into third place.

The NFP coalition won 182 seats, whereas French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Ensemble ("together") alliance came second with 168 MPs, according to provisional results published by France's Interior Ministry.

Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) and its allies unexpectedly landed in third place with 143 seats, far short of predictions after the first round of voting gave a clear victory to the anti-immigration populists

Following the left-wing triumph, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal – a Macron ally who had nevertheless been opposed to the calling of the snap election – tendered his resignation.

But this was rejected by the President on Monday, who has instead asked Attal to remain in office "for the time being in order to ensure the stability of the country."


Left-wing alliance leads polls in French elections

What do the results mean? 

None of the parties received enough seats for an absolute majority in parliament, meaning the chamber will be divided between different political groups with varying stances on key issues and little history of cooperation. 

A hung parliament could throw French politics into chaos with weeks of deliberation to determine who will serve as prime minister. Macron, who is facing increasing unpopularity, may have to lead the country alongside a prime minister who opposes his centrist policies. 

Attal, from Macron's Renaissance party, had led a minority coalition government since January. It replaced the previous centrist government that collapsed following the passing of a contested immigration bill

This most recent election was widely seen as a gamble by Macron to break the deadlock in parliament and secure a majority. This gamble now seems unlikely to pay out.

Macron's office says he will "wait for the new National Assembly to organize itself" before taking steps on a new government.

The National Assembly is scheduled to gather in full session for the first time on July 18.

From right to left

While the far right was denied the victory they had been expecting due to tactical voting, they managed to secure a significant boost in their number of seats from the 88 they had following the previous election.

Macron and his centrist allies will also likely not be too happy about the far left having taken the most seats.

Leftist alliance wins in French legislative election

The NFP is made up of communists, greens, socialists and Melenchon's far left France Unbowed, which many centrists consider as dangerous as Le Pen's far right.

Edouard Philippe, a former prime minister under Macron, said he was ready to work with other parties to form a coalition government, but ruled out any deals with Melenchon.

As the EU's second-largest economy and the bloc's biggest military power, the uncertainty in France could have wider impacts, but some leaders in other European capitals were nevertheless relieved by Sunday's results.

"In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on X.

On Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed the results and said he hoped for the formation of "a constructive government."

"The German government and myself are relieved," he said. "It would have been a huge challenge if President Macron had had to cooperate with a right-wing, populist party. This has been averted."

Later, US President Joe Biden told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show that France had "rejected extremism" and that US Democrats "will reject it, too."

Referring to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, he said: "All my life, I have never known a more extreme candidate."

What did the French political leaders say?

Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose France Unbowed party belongs to the NFP, called the results an "immense relief for a majority of people in our country."

France's Melenchon: 'It is a relief'

Olivier Faure, of the Socialist Party which is in the NFP alliance, said "we have to restore the country on a clear basis and the New Popular Front must take the lead in this new chapter of our history." Faure said there should be no "coalition of opposites" that simply builds on Macron's policies. 

Jordan Bardella, the president of the far-right RN, had originally hoped to be the clear choice for prime minister. Due to the party's disappointing result in the election, he claimed that "France is being thrown into the hands of the far left" and condemned an "alliance of dishonor."        

Bardella accused Macron of "pushing France into uncertainty and instability." Le Pen said "our victory only has been delayed."

Macron originally called for the snap legislative elections in France after the far right surged in the European parliamentary elections in June. 

ab,wd/rm,lo (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)