French elections: the factors that explain the surprising victory of the left and the great unknown that it leaves

French elections: the factors that explain the surprising victory of the left and the great unknown that it leaves
French elections: the factors that explain the surprising victory of the left and the great unknown that it leaves
Caption, The leader of the radical left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was quick to declare his victory.
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  • Author, Writing
  • Role, BBC News World
  • 1 hour

Dramatic results were expected in France’s legislative elections, but what happened shocked many.

France now faces a political deadlock after parliamentary elections dealt a blow to the far-right National Rally party but left no party with an outright majority.

The National Rally (RN) was relegated to third place, behind a hastily assembled left-wing alliance and the centrists of current President Emmanuel Macron.

This left-wing alliance, the New Popular Front (NFP), is now the largest force in parliament.

But since neither party obtained a majority, the form that the future government will take is uncertain.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who is part of Macron’s alliance, was set to announce his resignation but the French president reportedly asked him to stay in his post “for the stability of the country.”

Although the results do not directly affect Macron’s work – he still has three more years left in his presidential term – the president will have to work with this parliament.

It could take weeks to form a government and, to make matters worse, It is impasse It comes just 18 days before Paris hosts the Olympic Games.

How did we get here? And what can happen now?

A risky bet

In June, Emmanuel Macron called for early elections following his defeat by the far right in the European Parliament elections.

He said his decision to call an election, in an attempt to halt the rise of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, was “the most responsible solution”.

“France needs a clear majority in serenity and harmony,” he said.

But the elections were neither planned nor necessary.

Image source, Reuters

Caption, Macron has asked Gabriel Attal to remain in his post as prime minister “for the stability of the country.”

As the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris notes, Macron may have thought a lightning campaign would dissuade voters from his flirtation “with the extremes” and return a centrist majority to the National Assembly.

But Everything indicates that he did not make the correct calculation.

After the first round of voting on June 30, it became clear that there was a high probability that the opposition would become the main force in the lower house, which would lead to a change of prime minister.

So, RN confirmed the predictions and took the lead in the first round.

A left-wing alliance formed expressly for this election – whose main actor is La France Insoumise, a far-left group – came in second.

After learning these results, French voters They mobilized to prevent Marine Le Pen’s far right from coming to power.

And they achieved it in the second round this Sunday.

They put the brakes on the far right. But the election was chaotic, with no party winning enough seats to secure an absolute majority of 289 out of 577 seats in Parliament.

RN was relegated to third place with 143 seats, Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition came in second with 168 and the NFP won 182 seats.

And French politics was thus plunged into chaos. in a stalemate that could last for months.

Caption, French voters mobilized to prevent Marine Le Pen’s far-right from coming to power.

NFP: A hastily formed alliance

When news broke that the left had won the election, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a veteran politician considered by his critics to be an extremist, wasted no time in declaring victory.

“The president must call on the New Popular Front to govern,” he told supporters at Place Stalingrad in Paris, insisting that Macron had to acknowledge that he and his coalition had lost.

His alliance, hastily formed for these elections, includes his own radical party La France Insoumise, along with the Greens, the Socialists, the Communists and even the Trotskyists.

“These matches They are a true temple of very broad opinions” explains BBC journalist Nadia Ragozhina.

“They have criticized each other in the past and They have some key differences in their ideology and approach“They range from social democrats to staunch anti-capitalists. But they decided to form a bloc to keep the far right out of government,” he adds.

But since the coalition does not have a majority, it is unclear who will govern or how.

“France is in a situation that no one had anticipated,” French journalist Pierre Haski told the BBC.

“This is a situation that left-wing leaders would never have imagined a month ago, let alone imagined achieving a relative victory,” he said.

“The left are contradictory allies,” says Haski. “They’ve been at odds and suddenly they’ve formed this alliance that’s been very effective. But the leaders have different agendas.

“Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a radical leader and he is playing the long game. He wants to be president in 2027. But the other leaders know that if this coalition fails, they will lose in three years.“, Haski adds.

Mélenchon does not seem to be wasting any time. As soon as he finished his speech at Place Stalingrad he went to the much larger Place de la République to celebrate his success before a crowd of 8,000 people singing the Internationale, according to police figures.

Image source, Reuters

Caption, The NFP is “a veritable temple of very broad opinions”

The French don’t like the far right

For supporters of the National Rally, the celebrations of their victory in the first round were suddenly interrupted.

Just a week ago, everyone was talking about a possible absolute majority, and just two days ago, Marine Le Pen and RN leader Jordan Bardella were praising their party’s chances.

But the French have said it again: They don’t want the far right to be in power.

They gave them a great victory in the European elections, they gave them a great victory in the first round of these parliamentary elections.

But when the decisive moment came, as happened in the presidential elections, they decided to change their minds.

Marine Le Pen was brave in the face of her defeat. “Two years ago we had only seven deputies. Tonight, RN is the leading party in France in terms of the number of deputies,” she declared.

And Le Pen is right. In the last legislature they had 88 deputies and now they have gained more than 140.

No other party has more than 100 MPs, because Macron’s centrists and the NFP are both coalitions.

Jordan Bardella complained that his party had been thwarted by “dishonourable and unnatural alliances” forged by a “single party” made up of the Macron camp and the left.

As journalist Pierre Haski points out, in these elections RN “he lost, but he has not been defeated.”

“National Rally won nearly 10 million votes. It increased its share of legislators in Parliament and is looking forward to the next election,” he said.

For now, however, the fact remains that the majority of French people have said “No” to the far right, either because they oppose its ideas or because they fear the unrest that would inevitably follow if it came to power.

The far right has never ruled France as a result of democratic elections.

Image source, Reuters

Caption, He impasse political event occurs days before the Paris Olympics begin.

The unknown: who will be prime minister?

The NFP has already said it wants to present a candidate for prime minister by the end of the week.

“By convention, the French president appoints a prime minister from the largest parliamentary party, and the NFP says it should be them,” explains the BBC’s Hugh Schofield.

“And several names are being considered,” he adds. “Jean-Luc Mélenchon is widely the best-known leader of the NFP, he is a divisive figure and, if in the end it is necessary to reach agreements with the centre, He is not the right man to do it“.

Macron has also said on several occasions that he will not accept him as Prime Minister.

Other possibilities are also being considered with the leaders of the other NFP parties, such as Marine Tondelier of the Greens, Olivier Faure of the Socialists, the communist Fabien Roussel and Raphaël Glucksmann of the small party Place Publique, which performed well in the European elections.

Former President François Hollande, elected as a member of parliament on Sunday, could play a key role in opening up contacts with the centre, Although he has said he does not want to be prime minister.

“The difficulty is that all these names signed up to the NFP’s programme when it was formed three weeks ago to block the far right,” explains the BBC correspondent.

“This programme includes reversing President Macron’s pension reforms and redistributing wealth through tax increases for the wealthiest.”

The question now is whether they will all be willing to abandon those commitments as a condition for sharing power.

But there is also the possibility that some more moderate members of the NFP might be tempted to break away from the coalition and join Macron’s group to form a centre-left government.

If a functioning majority cannot be assembled, President Macron can ask the largest party to lead a minority government.

Another option is to appoint a technocratic government, but it is unlikely to survive for long.

Political instability could arise, especially because the president cannot call new parliamentary elections until a year from now.

Thus, all the parties that joined together to form the New Popular Front must now decide how they can and want to govern.

The new National Assembly is due to meet in 10 days, just before the Olympic Games begin on July 26. Will there be an agreement on who will be the new prime minister by then, or will it take longer?

The newspaper Release He summed up what is happening with the headline: It’s crazy (“It’s crazy.”)

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