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French far right takes strong lead in elections – World

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Former president of the French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) parliamentary group Marine Le Pen gestures as she gives a speech during the results evening of the first round of the parliamentary elections in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, on June 30, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

France edged closer on Sunday during the first round of national election to the prospect of a far-right government running the country.

The National Rally, or RN, led by Marine Le Pen made notable gains during the legislative election, turning President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to dissolve Parliament against him.

According to the final results published by the Ministry of the Interior on Monday, the far-right RN and its allies emerged as the biggest winners, with 33.2 percent of the vote.

The left, united in the New Popular Front alliance, made solid progress and came second with 28 percent.

Macron’s coalition, known as Together, suffered a significant defeat, securing only 20 percent of the vote.

The traditional conservative The Republicans party received 6.6 percent, while various other right-wing parties garnered 3.7 percent.

The election for the 577 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house, will conclude after the second round of voting on Sunday.

A total of 76 members of parliament were elected outright during the first round, having secured more than half of the votes cast, French daily Le Parisien reported. Among them, 39 MPs were elected from Le Pen’s right-wing alliance.

The New Popular Front won 32 seats during the first round. Macron’s alliance won only two seats. The Republicans won one seat, and various right-wing parties won two.

This means there will be no vote for these seats in the second round of the election.

Sunday’s election started with major opinion polls predicting a record turnout.

The final turnout in mainland France was estimated at 65.8 percent, according to pollster Ipsos-Talan, which was significantly higher than the 47.5 percent recorded in 2022.

High voter turnout

Yves Sintomer, head of the Political Science Department at Paris 8 University, said the first round of voting was notable for its significant voter turnout, marking an increase of nearly one-third compared with the previous general elections.

“The turnout was the highest seen in the past two decades, although it remains lower than levels observed in the 1970s and 1980s,” Sintomer said.

Le Pen told supporters on Sunday the French had put RN ahead and nearly “wiped out” Macron’s faction during the first round of the legislative elections.

She urged voters to give RN an absolute majority in the second round to “repair France and reestablish unity”. “Nothing is won, and the second round is decisive,” she said.

Jordan Bardella, also from the RN, told supporters: “The French have answered the call to vote, with the highest participation in 40 years. The response is clear — they have voted for change.”

Macron urged voters to stop the far right in Sunday’s second round, calling for a broad democratic alliance and saying the high turnout in the first round shows the vote’s importance.

France’s hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said on Sunday his France Unbowed party would withdraw candidates in constituencies where it came third and where the RN was leading ahead of the second round of legislative election.

“Our instructions are simple, direct and clear. Not one more vote, not one more seat for the RN,” Melenchon said.

Pierre Latrille, head of the opinion and politics department at Ipsos France, said on the public TV channel LCP on Sunday evening, “The RN could win an absolute majority, but this is by no means certain.”

He said he now considers it “very difficult” for the left to obtain an absolute majority.

Olivier Costa, a political scientist at the Centre for Political Research of Sciences Po Paris, was cited by Ouest France newspaper as saying on Sunday, “The most likely outcome for the RN is a relative majority, not an absolute one.”

Sintomer also believes a first RN government in France is possible, but said they would need an absolute or a near-absolute majority to avoid failure. “Without it, governing and passing their program would be very dangerous,” he said.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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