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French election: Macron urges alliance to head off far right

July 1, 2024

Marine Le Pen's National Rally (RN) party and its allies have won the first round of the 2024 French legislative election. But it remains to be seen if the bloc can win an absolute majority in a second round on July 7.

Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique, to protest against the rising right-wing movement after the Rassemblement National's victory in the first round of early general elections in Paris, France on June 30, 2024
Demonstrators gathered in Place de la Republique to protest against the rise of the far right after the first round of early general electionImage: Luc Auffret/Anadolu/picture alliance

A far-right bloc consisting of the National Rally (RN) party and its allies took  33% of the vote in the first round of French parliamentary elections, according to figures released by the Interior Ministry on Monday.

The leftist New Popular Front bloc came in second with 28%, while the centrist bloc Ensemble (Together), led by President Emmanuel Macron's Renaissance party, gained 20%.

The results are in line both with preelection surveys and exit poll results issued on Sunday evening following the vote.

The RN's success in the first round already triggered protests in the capital, Paris, and other cities on Sunday by people who fear a shift to the right in France.

Macron plans to prevent 'absolute majority' for far right

'Clarify the political situation'

Sunday's snap election was called by Macron after his party suffered a major defeat at the hands of the RN in European Parliament elections earlier in June.

In a communique cited widely by French media, the French president called for the formation of a "broad democratic and republican alliance" to prevent the RN gaining an absolute majority in parliament in the second round.

"The high turnout in the first round (...) demonstrates the importance of this vote to all our compatriots and the desire to clarity the political situation," he added.


A clear wish for change: Jordan Bardella, National Rally

Uncertainty remains

Despite the first-round win, it remains uncertain whether the RN can win an absolute majority in the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, in a second round next Sunday.

The second round will see runoff votes between two or three candidates where there was no outright winner in the constituency in the first round.

Leaders of both the New Popular Front and Macron's centrist alliance have said they will withdraw their own candidates if another candidate has a better chance of beating the RN in the runoff.

The exception for Macron is if such a promising candidate comes from the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Inter radio that while he would call on voters to pick other left-wing candidates, he would never encourage them to vote for the LFI, saying the party was "a danger for the nation."

European far-right leaders hail result

Other far-right leaders in Europe have been rejoicing at the RN's victory.

Italy's deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, who heads the far-right League party, congratulated Marine Le Pen, the leader of the RN's parliamentary group, and Jordan Bardella, the party president, on the result. 

He also lambasted Macron for calling for voters to put up a united front to prevent the RN from gaining an absolute majority in the second round.

Spain's Santiago Abascal, leader of the Vox party, called the result a "victory of hope, freedom and security for the French people.

In Portugal, Andre Ventura from the Chega party claimed that "Europe is waking up! Soon, it will be Portugal!"

tj/fb (Reuters, AFP)