Leftist uprising defeats right, but French election ends in deadlock



CNN

A Left-wing coalition It has won more seats in the French parliament after a tactical vote on Sunday Second round election Marine Le Pen’s far-right party was defeated, but with no party achieving an outright majority, France will be left in political limbo.

In a surprise result, the New Popular Front (NFP) – a coalition of parties ranging from the far-left France Unboot to moderate socialists and environmentalists – won 182 seats in the National Assembly, becoming the largest group. Short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority, the French interior ministry said.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist bloc, which slipped to an abysmal third place in last Sunday’s first round of voting, staged a strong recovery to win 163 seats. Despite leading after the first round of voting, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) party and its allies won 143 seats.

The RN’s strong showing in the first round fueled fears that France could be on the verge of electing its first far-right government since the World War II collaborationist Vichy regime. But Sunday’s results were a major upset, and show the overwhelming desire of French voters to prevent the far-right from taking power – even at the cost of a hung parliament.

After the first round, an unprecedented number of seats – more than 300 – went to a three-way runoff between Ensemble, NFP and RN. By Tuesday, more than 200 centrist and left-wing candidates had withdrawn from the second round in an effort to avoid a split vote.

Cheers rang out in the streets of Paris when the prediction was announced. Speaking to a crowd of ecstatic supporters near Stalingrad Square, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the firebrand leader of France’s Anbo, said the results were “a great relief for the majority of people in our country”.

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“Our people have clearly rejected the worst-case scenario,” Mélenchon said. “A spectacular surge of civil mobilization has taken hold!”

Macron’s supporter Gabriel Atal announced his resignation as prime minister on Monday morning. He appeared to take a swipe at Macron’s decision to call for a snap referendum, saying he had “not chosen” to dissolve France’s parliament.

Elsewhere in Paris, the lively atmosphere at an RN campaign event in the Bois de Vincennes turned into a suffocation an hour before polls closed. After the prediction is announced, Jordan BartellaThe party’s 28-year-old leader said France had been plunged into “uncertainty and instability”.

Elected leader by Marine Le Pen in an attempt to rid the party of its racist and anti-Semitic roots, Bartella took the party closer to the gates of power than ever before. Disappointed by the results, he slammed the NFP as a “coalition of respectability”.

“Starting tomorrow, our representatives will take their seats to ensure we stand up to immigration policies and other policies of the far left. “We will not enter into any kind of alliance or compromise, we will be on the side of the people of France,” he said.

Yara Nardi/Reuters

Supporters of the far-left France Unbowed party cheer the results near Stalingrad Square in Paris.

In a brief statement, Elysee said Macron was waiting for the full results of all 577 constituencies “before taking the necessary decisions”.

“In his role as guarantor of our institutions, the president will ensure that the sovereign choice of the French people is respected,” it said.

After parliamentary elections, the French president appoints a prime minister from the party with the most seats. Ordinarily, it means a candidate from the president’s own party. However, Sunday’s results leave Macron facing the possibility of appointing a man from the left-wing coalition, in a rare arrangement known as “collaboration”.

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Speaking to supporters near Stalingrad Square, Mélenchon said “Macron has a duty to call for a new People’s Front to govern.”

Geoffrey van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

A large French flag reads “France was born of colonization” at an event in the Place de la République in Paris.

But it is not clear from any party within the coalition that Macron will appoint the prime minister. France Unboot won 74 seats, making it the largest single party within the NFP, ahead of the Socialists with 59 seats.

But Macron and his allies have repeatedly insisted they refuse to enter a coalition with Mélenchon. After last Sunday’s first round, outgoing Prime Minister Gabriel Attal – a protégé of Macron – said France’s Unboot was preventing the far-right from forming a “credible alternative”.

The NFP was formed less than a month after Macron called for a snap referendum following the RN’s disastrous defeat in last month’s European Parliament elections.

The capable – and divisive – alliance chose its name in an attempt to revive the original Popular Front, which had prevented the far right from gaining power in 1936. Sunday’s results saw the NFP do it again.

It campaigned on a platform of raising the minimum monthly wage to 1,600 euros (over $1,700), capping the price of essential foods, electricity, fuel and gas and repealing Macron’s deeply unpopular pension reform that raised the French retirement age. Already one of the lowest in the Western world – from 62 to 64.

Sunday’s vote represents a victory for France’s “garden sanitaire,” a policy that requires mainstream parties to unite to prevent the far-right from taking office.

But the RN’s success should not be underestimated. In the 2017 election, when Macron came to power, the RN won just eight seats. By 2022, it will rise to 89 places. In Sunday’s polls, it won 125 – making it the single largest party in Parliament.

Although the risk of a far-right government has been averted for now, the elections have plunged France into political uncertainty. Moments after his party was defeated by the far-right in EU elections, Macron called the election three years earlier than necessary.

Although the EU election results have no bearing on domestic politics, Macron said he could not ignore the message voters had sent him and wanted to clarify the situation.

But Sunday’s results could further muddy the French political picture. With new elections unable to be called for at least another year and three years left in his presidency, Macron looks set to preside over an unruly parliament amid mounting problems at home and abroad.

Edouard Philippe, a former French prime minister and Macron’s ally, said Macron’s gambling had further complicated the situation.

“It is a fact that no political bloc has absolute majority in the assembly. The dissolution of the assembly, which was intended to be a clarification, has instead led to great ambiguity,” he said on Sunday evening.

“Therefore, central political forces have a continuing responsibility. They must not compromise but encourage the creation of an agreement that stabilizes the political situation.

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