France’s right-wing National Rally party gains momentum in first round of elections

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France’s right-wing National Rally party on Sunday made considerable gains in the country’s first round of elections, putting the centrist President Emmanuel Macron and his supporters on edge. 

Early projections suggest that the National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, stands a good chance of winning a majority in the lower house of parliament for the first time, with an estimated one-third of the first-round vote, nearly double their 18% in the first round in 2022.

French polling agencies indicated that Macron’s grouping of centrist parties could finish a distant third in the first-round ballot. Their projections put Macron’s camp behind both the National Rally and a new left-wing coalition of parties that joined forces to keep Le Pen”s anti-immigration party from potentially forming the most conservative government since World War II. 

Still, the election’s ultimate outcome remains uncertain, and the decisive final vote will happen next Sunday, July 7. 

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Macron and wife voting

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron leave the voting booth in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, northern France, Sunday, June 30, 2024. (Yara Nardi, Pool via AP)

Earlier this month, Macron dissolved parliament and called for a surprise vote after the National Rally clobbered his party in the European Parliament election. The move was seen as a risky gamble that French voters, complacent about the European election, would be motivated to back moderate forces to keep the National Rally out of power.

Many French voters are frustrated about inflation and other economic concerns, as well as the leadership of Macron, who is seen as arrogant and out of touch. Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally party has tapped that discontent, notably via online platforms like TikTok, and led in pre-election opinion polls.

Voters in Paris had issues from immigration to the rising cost of living on their minds as the country has grown more divided between the right-wing and left-wing blocs, with a deeply unpopular and weakened president in the political center. 

Le Pen called on voters to give the National Rally an “absolute majority” in parliament. She said a National Rally majority would enable the right to form a new government with party President Jordan Bardella as prime minister to work on France’s “recovery.”

Marine Le Pen after voting

Marine Le Pen, with local Mayor Steeve Briois, after voting in the parliamentary election, Sunday, June 30, 2024, in Henin-Beaumont, northern France. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

“Following historic victories for conservatives in the EU elections a few weeks ago, France today reaffirmed the drastic shift we are seeing in Europe away from the failed left-wing playbook in favor of a common-sense conservative agenda centered around lower taxes, a crackdown on illegal immigration, and support for freedom of speech,” Matt Mowers, EU-US Forum founding board member and former State Department official, told Fox News Digital. “Today’s results serve as another major message to bureaucrats in Brussels – Europeans want conservative policies and leaders.”

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Turnout on Sunday stood at an unusually high 59% three hours before polls closed – 20 percentage points higher than turnout at the same time in the last first-round vote in 2022.

The first polling projections emerged after final polling stations closed. Early official results were expected later Sunday.

The second round of voting next Sunday will be more decisive, but questions will still remain about how Macron will share power with a prime minister who is hostile to most of his policies.

Jordan Bardella waiting to be interviewed

National Rally President Jordan Bardella waits for the start of an interview on the French TV channel TF1, in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, on June 20, 2024. (Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)

In the scenario of a National Rally victory, Macron would be expected to name the party’s president, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, as prime minister in an awkward power-sharing system known as “cohabitation.” While Macron has said he won’t step down before his presidential term expires in 2027, cohabitation would weaken him at home and on the world stage.

The results of the first round will give a clear picture of voter sentiment, but not necessarily the overall makeup of the next National Assembly. Predictions are difficult because of the complicated voting system, and because parties will work between the rounds to make alliances in some constituencies or pull out of others.

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Bardella, who has no governing experience, said he would use the powers of prime minister to stop Macron from continuing to supply long-range weapons to Ukraine for the war with Russia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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