French Election Runoff: Polls Show Right-Wing Party Leading, Opponents Encourage Tactical Voting

July 6, 2024 by No Comments

France is poised to elect a new National Assembly, but no single party is projected to secure a majority in the highly contested election. The second round of voting, scheduled for July 7, follows the first round on June 30, which saw only 76 out of 577 constituencies determine their representatives. The results from the first round offer insights into voter sentiment and highlight challenges for the current government, particularly after the RN (National Rally) garnered one-third of the vote, exceeding any other party.

The current government is a coalition known as “ensemble,” comprising Renaissance (RE), Democratic Movement, Horizons, En Commun, and the Progressive federation. Despite the assembly election results, President Macron will retain his position until the 2027 election.

Macron called for the snap election after the RN’s significant success in the European Parliamentary elections in June. Pre-election polls indicated the RN’s dominance, but recent polling suggests a decline in their projected share, indicating they may not achieve a clear majority. 

According to Reuters, Wednesday’s polls suggest the RN will secure between 190 and 220 seats, falling short of the 289 needed to control the assembly. Their closest allies, the Republicans, are projected to win around 50 seats at most, ruling out the formation of a right-wing coalition to take control.

The New Popular Front alliance is expected to hold the second-largest share, with 159 to 183 seats, placing Macron’s “ensemble” coalition third with an estimated 110 to 135 seats. Macron has ruled out forming an alliance with the left-wing party France Unbowed (LFI), according to Le Figaro. 

Several candidates from Macron’s alliance, who advanced to the runoff, have withdrawn their candidacies to concentrate voter support behind the strongest non-RN candidate in each constituency. Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced his intention to vote for a Communist candidate to prevent an RN victory. 

Macron emphasized that withdrawing support from left-wing officials in the face of the National Rally does not imply future collaboration with LFI. 

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal recently criticized LFI, equating their extremism to that of the RN and claiming both parties fuel societal division. He asserted that “Insoumise France fuels the National Rally and the National Rally fuels Insoumise France.” 

“They fuel hatred, fears and divisions between the French,” Attal added. “On June 30 and July 7, against the extremes and for the Republic, vote!” 

Opposition to the RN stems from its origins as the National Front, led by Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who held controversial views, including elements of Holocaust denial. 

Despite her father’s legacy, Marine Le Pen has gained support among some Jewish voters amid rising antisemitism in Europe. 

However, her anti-Islam views and statements have raised concerns among other voters. In 2017, she proposed expelling foreigners convicted of crimes or suspected of radicalization and stripping French citizenship from convicted extremists with dual nationality, as reported by Radio France Internationale. 

“The measures that I want to put in place would mean that many of these people (Islamist attackers) would not have been on our territory or living freely,” she said in an interview with BFM TV. 

If the polls prove accurate, the most likely outcome in France will be a hung parliament, necessitating a coalition to establish a government. The Conservative Party in Britain overcame a hung parliament situation by forming an alliance with the Liberal-Democrats, eventually securing an outright majority in the subsequent election. 

However, the Conservatives held 306 out of 650 seats, making the coalition formation relatively straightforward. In France, the RN would require support from two other parties or an alliance with a direct rival to gain control. 

The government has urged voters to actively minimize the RN’s chances of controlling the assembly, with Attal emphasizing the responsibility to prevent their victory. 

“On Sunday evening, what’s at stake in the second round is to do everything so the extreme right does not have an absolute majority,” Attal stated during an appearance on France Inter radio, as reported by Voice of America. 

“It is not nice for some French to have to block … by using a vote that they did not want to,” he added, clarifying that he “did not speak about a coalition. I do not want to impose on the French a coalition they did not choose.”