French election: Left surprisingly ahead, Prime Minister wants to leave


Lerato Khumalo

The left unexpectedly wins the parliamentary elections. Le Pen’s right-wing nationalists are far from a government majority. The prime minister now wants to draw consequences.

Surprise in France: Contrary to all expectations, projections show that the left-wing alliance is ahead in the parliamentary election. The right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National performed significantly worse than expected. It is only likely to come in third place behind the center camp of President Emmanuel Macron, as the broadcasters TF1 and France 2 reported after the polls closed. However, neither camp is likely to achieve an absolute majority of 289 seats.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal took action after the election and announced that he would resign. It remains to be seen whether President Macron will accept his resignation.

After their surprise victory, the Left Party immediately made clear its claim to government. “We have won and now we will govern,” said Green Party General Secretary Marine Tondelier. The founder of the French Left Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, also demanded that Macron ask the left-wing alliance to govern.

According to the figures, the left-wing alliance Nouveau Front Populaire could win 177 to 198 of the 577 seats. Macron’s forces will therefore receive 152 to 169 seats and the Rassemblement National (RN) around Marine Le Pen and his allies 135 to 145.

The result comes as a complete surprise in France. After the first round of voting a week ago, forecasts put the RN just short of an absolute majority and thus possibly in a position to form the next government. Nevertheless, the RN has made significant gains: in the dissolved parliament it still had 88 seats.

The left and Macron’s centre forces had formed an alliance of convenience before the second round of voting. In order not to take votes away from each other in constituencies where three candidates made it to the second round and thus help the RN to win locally, several candidates from the left and the liberals withdrew. They called on their voters to vote against the RN in any case.

The result now shows quite clearly: Despite all the doubts, the firewall against the right is holding. At 67.5 percent, voter turnout was significantly higher than in previous years.

France’s divided left had only joined forces a few weeks ago to form the Nouveau Front Populaire for the parliamentary elections. In the European elections at the beginning of June, the parties had still run separately. The main dispute within the left is over the old left leadership icon Mélenchon. The populist, who has attracted attention with his Eurosceptic statements and is clearly pro-Palestinian, is being heavily criticized even within his own party.

The alliance of leftists, communists, socialists and greens does not have a clear leadership. There is also no common program.

What will happen next is unclear for the time being. It is uncertain whether the Left can form a minority government on its own. The other factions could overthrow such a government with a vote of no confidence.

The left could also try to get support from the centre forces – either as a minority government with tolerance or in a kind of grand coalition. Given the opposing political orientations, however, it is not clear whether this could succeed. Socialist leader Olivier Faure has also already spoken out against a coalition with Macron’s camp. The leading social democrat Raphaël Glucksmann brought cooperation on individual projects into play.