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France: 5 Things to Understand What’s Happening Now

The second round of the legislative elections took place on July 7, 2024. Voters contradicted the indications of the first round, preventing the Rassemblement National from coming to power, but no clear majority emerged. While Gabriel Attal has resigned his government, here are five lessons to be learned from France’s third election in a month.

The dam worked

The jokes about beavers, after 2002, 2017 and 2022, were not enough to hinder its effectiveness. With a high turnout (66.6% of registered voters, compared to 66.7% in the first round), voters showed that the call for a republican threshold still works: although the Rassemblement National was the first group, it was unable to compete with the left-wing coalition and the former presidential majority. In the 306 possible triangular groups that emerged from the second round of the legislative elections, the more or less clear withdrawals (of the New Popular Front or Ensemble) benefited candidates outside the RN.

Celebration of the victory of the left in Paris on July 7, 2024.

Remon Haazen/Getty Images

PARIS FRANCE JULY 07 The text love will triumph is seen draped on the statue of Marianne on the Place de la Republique...
PARIS, FRANCE – JULY 07: The text “love will triumph” is seen draped on the statue of Marianne on the Place de la Republique t after the Nouveau Front Populaire, an alliance of left wing parties including the far-left wing party, La France Insoumise came first on July 07, 2024 in Paris, France. The National Rally party was expected to have a strong showing in the second round of France’s legislative election, which was called by the French president last month after his party performed poorly in the European election, but first projections have shown an unexpected lead for the French left wing alliance New Popular Front. (Photo by Remon Haazen/Getty Images)Remon Haazen/Getty Images

Even in the few cases where the third-placed candidate did not withdraw in the name of the Republican front to oppose the first-placed RN candidate, there was no massive victory for the party led by Jordan Bardella: as calculated by The World, In this triangular election, 20 candidates from the far-right party lost, compared to the nine who won.

…but the RN is the largest group

Despite its historic success in the European elections (31.5%), consolidated in the first round of the legislative elections (33%), the RN remains far from an absolute majority. To send Jordan Bardella to Matignon [sede del primo ministro francese, ndr]the far-right party should have occupied 289 seats. According to the final results, however, it will only have 125 seats, 37 of which were won in the first round. Far from the absolute majority so hoped for by its leader, the RN has consolidated its position as the third political force in the Assembly, behind the NFP and the presidential majority reunited under Ensemble. Although the Republican threshold deprived it of its majority, the RN has nevertheless made clear progress in the hemicycle, obtaining the largest number of votes alone (8.7 million votes or 32.05% of the votes). The two political groupings preceding it combine the votes of several parties.

Disappointment among the voters of the Rassemblement National on July 7, 2024.

Disappointment among the voters of the Rassemblement National on July 7, 2024.

Artur Widak/Anadolu via AFP

Jordan Bardella July 7, 2024.

Jordan Bardella, July 7, 2024.

Artur Widak/Anadolu via AFP

The RN was strengthened by 17 additional seats from Éric Ciotti’s Républicains, who supported the alliance proposed by their leader. In detail, the party founded in 1972 by Jean Marie Le Pen has gained 36 seats (it had occupied 89 since the last legislative elections). “I see that this evening the Rassemblement National is the first political party in France, and it is also the first party in terms of number of deputies”, Marine Le Pen rejoiced last night. The older sister Marie-Caroline The Pen was beaten by 225 votes in Sarthe by the FNP candidate Elise Leboucher. Despite the cold shower, after the announcement of the results Jordan Bardella wanted to underline the meteoric rise of his party: «Today the Rassemblement national has made the biggest breakthrough in its history».

The Rassemblement saves what can be saved

The weakened presidential majority has become the second force in the National Assembly. The Ensemble coalition, which has governed with a relative majority since the 2022 legislative elections, will now have to settle for being the second force in the chamber, with 163 seats. This is a sharp decline compared to the 2022 legislative elections, when Ensemble had obtained 245 seats. While the Republican front succeeded in its attempt to block the RN, it significantly favored Ensemble’s candidates.

The withdrawal of the FNP candidates in favor of the majority candidates allowed Ensemble to salvage what could be salvaged: “In reality, the withdrawals favored the former majority more: on Sunday evening, the presidential camp won 86 of the 215 constituencies affected by the withdrawals of the Republicans, against 57 for the left-wing alliance.” Gabriel Attal was delighted to see his party obtain a percentage “three times higher than expected” at the start of the campaign, given that Renaissance was the party with the most seats in the coalition. Several “Macronie” figures benefited from the withdrawal of the left-wing candidates, including Elizabeth Borne, Gerald Darmaninwho had announced that he would no longer be a minister after these elections, and Agnes Pannier-Runacher.

THE republicans survive the Ciotti putsch

After starting the campaign with the outstretched hand of Éric Ciotti to the RN, the Républicains asserted their independence and held the course with 39 seats. With the 27 seats held by the various right-wing parties, the Republican Right bloc did better than in the last legislative elections, when it had obtained 62 seats. This was an unexpected rebound after the poor results of the first round, during which 251 LR candidates were eliminated. The party is benefiting from its traditional roots, despite a slump recorded since the 2007 legislative elections, organized after the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, during which L‘UMP (the old name of the LR party) had obtained a very large majority with 313 seats. Despite internal struggles, the presence of right-wing deputies and the transfer of votes (with the withdrawal of candidates) allowed the LR candidates to consolidate their position in the Assembly and to distance themselves even more from Eric Ciotti.

Éric Ciotti in Nice 7 July 2024.

Éric Ciotti in Nice, 7 July 2024.

Valery Hache/AFP

Ciotti obtained only 17 seats, far behind his political family. “The choice of independence was the right one,” the party congratulated itself on X. Olivier Marleixpresident of the LR group in the National Assembly, was one of those who benefited from the Republican barrier against the RN: he was re-elected in the second constituency of Eure-et-Loir which saw him pitted against the RN candidate Olivier Dubois. The former president of the party Laurent Wauquiez (2017-2019) is preparing to return to the National Assembly and has already announced that it will reject any “coalition” or “compromise” with the RN and the presidential majority. This position is in line with the attitude of the party’s leaders during the electoral campaign, who had not made any indication of how to vote.

Matignon’s Headache

The left claims victory, but the details of the distribution of seats, as announced by the Ministry of the Interior at 8 am on Monday, are more complex: Ensemble has 148 elected representatives, against 146 for the FNP and 88 for the RN. Without a clear majority, Emmanuel Macron will therefore have to form a coalition to find a prime minister, something he did not do in 2022 despite his relative majority, which ultimately led to this surprise dissolution on the evening of the European elections on June 9. Gabriel Attal announced on Sunday evening that he would present the resignation of his government today.

Gabriel Attal at Matignon on July 7, 2024.

Gabriel Attal at Matignon on July 7, 2024.

Ludovic MARIN/AFP

A left-wing prime minister? We will have to rely on the internal debates within the FPN. La France Insoumise is in the lead within the coalition, but not clearly enough to exclude Matignon, especially given the internal disagreements (Francois Ruffin, Clementine Autain…). The Socialist Party is recovering, supported by the good results of the Place Publique list of Raphael Glucksmann in the European elections. On Sunday evening, the MEP called on the party to “behave like adults” in the face of a “divided Assembly”.

A coalition could be formed, from the left wing of Macronie to the PS via Les Écologistes, but this will only be possible after negotiations that are expected to be difficult. The absence of LFI, which is vehemently opposed to the idea, could also be tempting for Modem. Francois Bayrou and Horizons of Edouard Philippewho had expressed themselves in favor of equidistance in the case of triangular matches with LFI candidates. From Marine Tondelier to Laurent Wauquiez? “Yes, yes,” replied François Bayrou on France Inter on Monday morning. But a position will have to be taken on a series of key issues, including the main proposals of the NFP program, such as the repeal of the pension reform or the minimum wage of 1,600 euros.

In any case, the debate will have to end quickly, because France has a big deadline ahead of it: the Olympic Games are approaching very quickly, with the opening ceremony taking place on July 26. And if there is a coalition, it could also be short-lived: according to the Constitution, Emmanuel Macron will be able to dissolve the French Parliament again… on July 8, 2025.

Source: Vanity Fair

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