Parliament: Election in France: Right-wing nationalists could win majority

Parliament: Election in France: Right-wing nationalists could win majority
Parliament: Election in France: Right-wing nationalists could win majority

France’s National Assembly could move significantly to the right. Le Pen’s camp is moving towards a majority. Berlin and Brussels are likely to be watching the development with concern.

The right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National could become the strongest force in the French National Assembly in the future. According to projections, it and its allies came in ahead in the first round of the early parliamentary elections in France with 33 to 34.2 percent.

President Emmanuel Macron’s center camp came in third place with 20.7 to 22 percent, behind the left-wing alliance Nouveau Front Populaire with 28.1 to 29.1 percent. How many seats the blocs will get in the National Assembly will only be decided in runoff elections on July 7.

Defeat for Macron

The result is a bitter defeat for French President Emmanuel Macron. He had hoped that the early election would increase the relative majority of his centrist forces in the lower house. That now seems extremely unlikely.

Initial forecasts assume that Marine Le Pen’s right-wing populists and their allies could become the strongest force in the lower house with 230 to 280 seats. However, they could narrowly miss the absolute majority with 289 seats.

Le Pen called for the party to gain an absolute majority in the upcoming runoff elections. “Nothing has been won, the second round is decisive.” In politics, nothing is more common than a change of power, said Le Pen. She warned against false fear-mongering against her party. RN party leader Jordan Bardella announced that he would take over the government as prime minister with an absolute majority in parliament.

The left could also gain 125 to 200 seats. Macron’s liberals are in danger of dropping to just 60 to 100 seats. However, it is difficult to make precise statements about the distribution of seats. Before the second round of voting, the parties can still forge local alliances that will influence the outcome of the election.

Retreat to stop the right-wing nationalists?

The founder of the Left Party has already called on his own candidates to withdraw in certain cases: In the constituencies in which the Left Alliance came third and the Right in first place in the runoff elections, the left-wing candidates should withdraw.

The Macron camp also announced that in the constituencies where they came third, they would step aside in favor of candidates who are able to beat the Rassemblement National.

More confrontation than cooperation

If forecasts come true and neither camp gains an absolute majority, France would face tough negotiations to form a coalition. A coming together of the very different political players is currently not foreseeable. What makes matters worse is that French political culture is geared more towards confrontation than cooperation.

Together, the opposition forces could possibly overthrow the current Macron-led government. However, without an agreement to work together, no other government is likely to find a majority in parliament. In such a case, it is possible that the current government will remain in office as a kind of transitional government or that a government of experts will be installed.

Impact on Europe

In such a scenario, France would face political stagnation. A government without a majority would not be able to initiate new projects. Another dissolution of parliament by Macron and new elections would not be possible until July 2025.

For Germany and Europe, this would mean that Paris, as an important player in Europe and part of the German-French tandem, would suddenly no longer be available to actively support the country. Instead of new initiatives, administration would be the order of the day in France. Although the office of President Macron remains untouched by the election, without an effective government he too would not be able to implement his projects.

If the RN performs even better than forecasts and wins an absolute majority, Macron would effectively be forced to appoint a prime minister from the ranks of the right-wing nationalists. This is because the lower house can overthrow the government. In such a scenario, Macron would lose a lot of power and the prime minister would become more important. Germany and Europe would have to prepare themselves for the fact that the divided country would no longer follow a clear course and would become less reliable.

Nationalists want to curb EU influence

In contrast to Macron, the RN does not care much about the decades-long close cooperation with Germany. The Eurosceptic nationalists also strive to decisively curb the influence of the European Union in France. They could try to slow down a number of projects in Brussels for their own interests. They are also against the expansion of the EU and are skeptical about NATO.

As president, Macron has priority in foreign policy. However, if RN leader Jordan Bardella or another right-wing populist becomes prime minister, he will hardly be able to continue his line unhindered.

The RN benefited from the momentum of the European elections, in which the party became by far the strongest force in France. For years, Le Pen has also been trying to “de-demonize” the RN and to decouple it from its right-wing extremist history and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and his trivialization of the Holocaust.

With her softening approach, she has made the party electable even in the middle class. With Jordan Bardella, a fresh politician is now at the helm who is more level-headed than the puppet master Le Pen and is not connected to her family clan. The party is also likely to have benefited from the uncertainty in the face of the multiple global crises as well as from frustration and disappointment with Macron.

Left camp benefits from unity

The surprising unity of the left wing in the election was probably the downfall of President Macron and his supporters. He had repeatedly called for cooperation against the extremes. However, neither the conservative Republicans nor the Socialists or the Greens joined forces with him in the election. The dissolution of the National Assembly was viewed by many in France as irresponsible. The French also blamed Macron for this.

The left-wing camp scored points with the newly formed alliance, which was supported by a number of people from the left wing despite internal disagreements. The fact that the leadership question, i.e. who would become prime minister in the event of an election victory, was left open may also have brought on board those voters who are critical of an alliance with the populist old leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

According to the institutes, voter turnout was between 65.8 and 67 percent. According to the Élysée Palace, Macron said that the high turnout showed the will to clarify the political situation. With regard to the RN result, he said it was time to form a broad, clearly democratic and republican coalition for the second round of voting.

Source: Stern

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