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Left-wing bloc springs surprise in French polls

Alliance secures most seats in second round but fails to win enough to govern

By MOHAMMAD ARIF ULLAH in Paris | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-07-09 09:07

Musicians play on the Seine river banks next to an election poster of the Nouveau Front Populaire (New Popular Front - NFP), one day before the second round of early French parliamentary elections in Paris, France, July 6, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

France is heading toward a hung parliament, with its new leftist alliance securing the most seats in the second round of national elections on Sunday but failing to win enough to comfortably govern.

According to final results published by France's Interior Ministry, the New Popular Front, or NFP, has 182 seats. President Emmanuel Macron's alliance has 168 seats. And the far-right National Rally, or RN, and its coalition has 143 seats. The conservative party Les Republicains, or LR, gained 46 seats. And other left, independent, and regionalist candidates took the remaining seats in the total of 577.

Macron had earlier dissolved Parliament and called the snap election after the far right trounced his centrist alliance in elections in June for the European Parliament.

In the first round of the national election on June 30, RN and its allies took the lead. The NFP alliance was second, and Macron's alliance was third.

Seventy-six of Parliament's 577 lawmakers were elected in the first round and, despite Sunday night's upset, RN's historic seat gain in the first round still stands.

Party head Jordan Bardella criticized what he called the "Republican Front" after the second round, saying a backroom deal had blocked RN and built support for Macron, leaving the country rudderless.

But Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left La France Insoumise, or LFI, party, declared on Sunday: "The defeat of the president and his coalition is confirmed. The PM must go. The president must call on the New Popular Front to govern."

Calling for an agreement

Former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a leader of Macron's alliance, responded by calling for an "agreement" between political forces, but said he would exclude the hard-left LFI party from any alliance despite it being a key part of NFP.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal submitted his resignation on Monday, but Macron refused and asked him to stay on for the sake of stability.

The president nominates France's prime minister but the candidate must then be approved by Parliament and usually comes from the party or coalition with the most seats.

Anne Charlene Bezzina, a law professor at the University of Rouen, said: "Today, we don't have any majority or any opposition. This is a complex situation."

Martial Foucault, a professor at Sciences Po University in Paris, agreed, noting: "Voters voted morally for an ungovernable France."

Between the first and second rounds, more than 200 candidates from various parties who qualified for the second round stepped aside, to allow a better-placed rival to go head-to-head with the RN candidate in their constituencies, increasing the chances of defeating them.

Yves Sintomer, head of the political science department at Paris 8 University, said on Sunday: "If there had been the number of possible triangular elections announced (with three candidates) after the first round, the National Rally would probably have an absolute majority today."

Negotiations around forming the next government will continue among party chiefs, with them first looking for a coalition government with an outright majority of 289 seats. Failing that, a minority government capable of surviving a no-confidence vote would be an option.

Mathieu Gallard, a research director at Ipsos France, said on Monday on the French TV channel France 2: "The parties will end up finding agreements and coalitions. The eye will turn toward the left but it will be in a delicate situation if it wants to govern because it is at the mercy of the opposition."

Professor Sintomer suggests that the hypothesis of a 'technocratic government led by a non-partisan prime minister' could serve as a temporary solution until the next election.

Tristan Haute, a political science researcher at Universite de Lille, told French Radio France Bleu on Monday: “The president’s coalition wants a broad coalition, from soft left to soft right. Forming a government will be a tough game. It’ll likely be a shaky minority one. We might even see voters back at the polls in a year.”

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