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Far right leads in polls as voting begins in France’s parliamentary election

30 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Marine Le Pen. Photo by Antoine Bayet is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Voters across mainland France began casting their ballots on Sunday in the first round of exceptional parliamentary election that could put France’s government in the hands of far-right parties for the first time since the Nazi era.

The outcome of the two-round election, which will conclude on July 7, could affect European financial markets, Western support for Ukraine and how France’s nuclear arsenal and global military force are managed.

Many French voters are frustrated about inflation and economic concerns, as well as President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership, which they see as arrogant and out-of-touch with their lives.

Discontent

Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally party has tapped and fuelled that discontent, notably via online platforms like TikTok, and dominated all pre-election opinion polls.

A new coalition on the left, the New Popular Front, is also posing a challenge to the pro-business Mr Macron and his centrist alliance Together for the Republic.

There are 49.5 million registered voters who will choose 577 members of the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, during the two-round voting.

After a blitz campaign marred by rising hate speech, voting began early in France’s overseas territories, and polling stations opened in mainland France at 8am (0600 GMT) on Sunday.

The first polling projections are expected at 8pm (1800 GMT), when the final polling stations close, and early official results are expected later on Sunday night.

In the volatile French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, polls have already closed – at 5pm local time – due to an 8pm-to-6am curfew that authorities on the archipelago have extended until July 8.

Nine people died during two-week-long unrest in New Caledonia, where the indigenous Kanak people have long sought to break free from France, which first took the Pacific territory in 1853.

Violence flared on May 13 in response to attempts by Mr Macron’s government to amend the French Constitution and change voting lists in New Caledonia, which Kanaks feared would further marginalise them.

Voters in France’s other overseas territories from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint-Martin, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana, French Polynesia and those voting in offices opened by embassies and consular posts across the Americas cast their ballots on Saturday.

Trounced

Mr Macron called the early election after his party was trounced in the European Parliament election earlier in June by National Rally, which has historic ties to racism and antisemitism and is hostile toward France’s Muslim community.

It was an audacious gamble that French voters who were complacent about the European Union election would be jolted into turning out for moderate forces in a national election to keep the far right out of power.

Instead, pre-election polls suggest that National Rally is gaining support and has a chance of winning a parliamentary majority. In that scenario, Mr Macron would be expected to name 28-year-old National Rally president Jordan Bardella as prime minister in an awkward power-sharing system known as “cohabitation”.

While Mr Macron has said he will not 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 picture of overall voter sentiment, but not necessarily of the overall make-up of the next National Assembly.

Predictions are extremely difficult because of the complicated voting system, and because parties will work between the two rounds to make alliances in some constituencies or pull out of others.

Tactical manoeuvres

In the past such tactical manoeuvres helped keep far-right candidates out of power. But now support for Ms Le Pen’s party has spread deep and wide.

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

The party has also questioned the right to citizenship for people born in France, and wants to curtail the rights of French citizens with dual nationality. Critics say this undermines fundamental human rights and is a threat to France’s democratic ideals.

Meanwhile, huge public spending promises by National Rally and especially the left-wing coalition have shaken markets and ignited worries about France’s heavy debt, already criticised by EU watchdogs.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago

Oh blimey! break out the Vichy water, here we go again, same ingredients, shaken and now stirred…ADHD on a continental scale…happy now* Dave…

*Ioan Gruffudd’s last home made film…have you seen it ?

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