‘An Extraordinary Vote’: France Stunned by Far-Right’s Election Gains

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally won a record high number of seats in France’s parliamentary elections to become the third largest party, just months after Emmanuel Macron defeated Le Pen in a presidential runoff.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally won a record-high number of seats in France’s parliamentary elections, in a surprise result that shocked pollsters and looks set to hand the party a louder voice in the country’s politics.

The far-right party, which previously held just eight seats in the National Assembly – France’s lower house – won 89 seats in Sunday’s second-round run-off vote, finishing as the third largest party in the legislature. 

The unexpected success for Le Pen’s party came at the expense of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance, which lost more than 100 seats and fell 44 seats short of the 289 it needed to retain an outright majority. Ensemble was also hurt by a strong performance by the left-green coalition NUPES, led by the hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, which took 131 seats to finish in second place.

Le Pen’s party, which was rebranded from National Front in 2018 as part of an effort to moderate its image, secured enough seats to allow it to form a parliamentary group for the first time since the 1980s, when Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, led 35 lawmakers into the National Assembly in a 1986 vote held under a proportional representation system. But Sunday’s result eclipsed even that previous high water mark.

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“It really is an extraordinary vote for them which really is extremely surprising,” Andrew Smith, a professor of French politics at the University of Chichester, told VICE World News.

“It’s extraordinarily significant for the National Rally, both in that it provides them with this huge platform in the assembly for their ideas – but also access to vastly increased funding from the state as a result of having formed a parliamentary grouping.”

Marine Le Pen speaks to journalists after initial election results came in. Photo: DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images

Smith said the result was in some ways a “realignment” that reflected the French voting public’s increased support for the far-right party, whose leader, Le Pen, has made the run-off in two consecutive presidential elections. Macron beat Le Pen by 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent in April’s presidential run-off vote, a narrower margin than his 2017 victory.

But it also reflected a strong element of protest voting against Macron’s centrist, technocratic style of governance, and the collapse of the so-called “republican front” – the principle that mainstream parties would cooperate to keep the far-right party from winning seats.

Smith said that the collapse of this principle in the elections was down to the approach by Macron’s Ensemble to treat left-wing candidates from Mélenchon’s coalition as extremists, alongside the National Rally.

He said that in dozens of seats where left-wing and far-right candidates were facing off in the second-round of voting, the defeated Ensemble candidate had failed to endorse the left-wing candidate – a move that could have helped keep National Rally from picking up seats.

“If there’s been a collapse in the republican front, it’s been led by the centre, and the liberal rejection of the left in this election,” he said.

Smith said the result was a fractured political landscape in which Macron’s party had lost the power to impose its political agenda, and would face stark challenges in pushing legislation through.

“You’re left with this tri-polarised, stagnant situation where it’s going to be very difficult to see how meaningful governance emerges from that,” he said.

Tagged:

Marine Le Pen, National Rally, Elections, worldextremism, Far right, worldnews

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