EU leaders relieved after surprise election victory for left in France

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The victory of the left in France in the recent parliamentary elections came as a surprise to many. EU leaders were quick to express their relief that a nationalist government would not come to power in France.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he was “happy” with the outcome. “In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kiev relief,” the former European Council president said on X.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez praised X’s “rejection of the radical right,” saying France had opted for “a social left that addresses the problems of the people with serious and courageous policies.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also told reporters he was “relieved,” adding that “we hope that the president and the elected members of parliament will succeed in forming a constructive government.”

After the first round of voting on June 30, forecasts predicted that the far-right Nationalist Rally (RN) would win an absolute majority of 289 seats, potentially allowing it to form the next government, with RN figurehead Jordan Bardella becoming the next prime minister.

Despite the setback, the RN – driven by an anti-immigration stance – still achieved a historic result (142 seats) in the second round of voting on Sunday, well above the 89 seats it won in 2022.

That was already an exceptional jump from the eight they had in 2017. “The tide continues to rise and our victory today is only postponed,” said RN’s Marine Le-Pen.

Victory for the New Popular Front (NFP)

The left-wing alliance Neues Volksfront (NFP) ultimately emerged as the winner in the French parliamentary elections.

However, this outcome has plunged the country into a political uncertainty unprecedented in recent history.

French President Emmanuel Macron had triggered the early elections after his liberal party suffered a defeat in last month’s European Parliament elections against Le Pen’s far-right RN party.

With 577 seats in the French National Assembly, the latest forecasts now put the NFP in first place with 188 seats, followed by Macron’s centrist alliance Ensemble (Together) with 161 seats and Le Pen’s RN with 142 seats.

The NFP – founded only last month – brought together the previously deeply divided Socialists, Greens, Communists and France Unbowed (LFI) into a single party alliance. In the European elections in early June, the parties had run separately.

The far-left LFI of Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the main party of the NFP, a divisive figure that is anathema to the right and centre and has alienated many of its left-wing party members.

The alliance’s main programme includes a massive increase in the minimum wage and a rollback of France’s pension reform, which lowers the retirement age from 64 to 62.

Mélenchon quickly demanded that Macron appoint a prime minister from the left-wing alliance, saying the NFP “must implement its program and only its program” and refusing to enter into negotiations with Macron’s party.

French electoral system key to left-wing victory

Although the left-wing NFP led in seats in Sunday’s election, the far-right RN and its allies were by far the party with the most votes, with around 37% compared to 26% for the NFP.

Macron’s liberal alliance Ensemble finished in third place with about 24% of the vote.

In the French electoral system, the candidate who obtains a majority of the votes in each of the 577 constituencies is directly elected to a seat in the National Assembly.

Macron’s left and centre movements had formed a coalition before the second round of voting for seats where no winner had been declared in the first round.

To avoid stealing votes from each other, candidates from the left or center parties strategically withdrew to constituencies where three candidates made it to the second round.

In this way, the remaining candidate had a greater chance of beating the RN candidate. NFP and the liberal centre alliance called on their supporters to vote against the RN in any case.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said that “if we look at what happened in France, no one can claim victory,” she added, adding that “none of the three has established themselves, none of the three is capable of governing alone.”

France in political no man’s land

After the elections, the eurozone’s second-largest economy enters a period of political uncertainty and instability, just weeks before the Olympic Games in Paris.

The unforeseen political landscape left by the second round of elections predicts a deeply divided National Assembly without clear majorities.

France is now in a very uncertain phase in terms of coalition formation, especially since it is a country with no tradition of coalitions or alliances.

If no bloc can find a majority to form a government, the current government can do business on an interim basis, or an expert government can be appointed.

In such a scenario, France would face a political impasse. Another dissolution of parliament by Macron and new elections would not be possible until July 2025.

After the elections, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal of Macron’s party offered his resignation to the president.

Macron refused and asked Attal to remain in power in a temporary capacity, sit out the Olympics and reassure the international community and markets.

Sources at the Élysée said Macron will take his time until the new National Assembly is in place to decide on the future government to be formed.

Macron could wait until after parliament’s summer recess to appoint a new prime minister.

However, the newly elected National Assembly will hold its first session on July 18, during which the Speaker of Parliament will be elected.

The next day, decisions are made about the vice-chairmen and the composition of the committees.

The content of this article is based on reporting by AFP, ANP, ANSA, dpa, EFE and HINA as part of the European Newsroom (enr) project.

Thousands of people gather on the Place de la Republique to celebrate the victory of the New Popular Front over the far right Julien Mattia/Le Pictorium via ZUMA Press/dpaThousands of people gather on the Place de la Republique to celebrate the victory of the New Popular Front over the far right Julien Mattia/Le Pictorium via ZUMA Press/dpa

Thousands of people gather on the Place de la Republique to celebrate the victory of the New Popular Front over the far right Julien Mattia/Le Pictorium via ZUMA Press/dpa

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