Parliamentary elections in France start first round


Lerato Khumalo

President Macron surprised everyone with early parliamentary elections. Now the first of two rounds is starting. Will the right in France be as strong as predicted?

The eagerly awaited parliamentary elections in France are entering their first round. The approximately 49.3 million eligible voters can vote on whether the center camp of President Emmanuel Macron will continue to have the majority in the National Assembly and thus form the government, or whether a change of power in Paris is imminent and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal will have to give way. Marine Le Pen’s right-wing nationalists are imagining their chances of a majority in the parliamentary chamber and the post of Prime Minister. The vote is not about Macron’s presidency.

The polling stations open at 8 a.m. on Sunday. In some places overseas, voting began on Saturday due to the time difference. The first projections are expected at 8 p.m.

Macron dissolved the National Assembly after the clear defeat of his Liberals in the European elections and the landslide victory of the right-wing nationalist Rassemblement National (RN) and announced new elections for the French parliamentary chamber in two rounds. The second and decisive round of voting is on July 7.

President Macron hopes to expand his relative majority in the National Assembly with the vote. His ruling center camp has been under enormous pressure since losing its absolute majority two years ago. RN and the new left-wing alliance Nouveau Front Populaire are seeking a change of government.

According to polls, Macron is likely to suffer another bitter defeat in the first round of voting. Most recently, analysts saw his middle camp in third place with 20 to 20.5 percent. They saw Le Pen’s RN and allies clearly ahead with 36 to 36.5 percent, followed by the Nouveau Front Populaire with 29 percent.

It is still uncertain what exactly the parliament will look like after the election. Very few of the 577 seats will be awarded in the first round. The decisive factor will be the run-off elections in the second round.

Nevertheless, forecasts assume that the right-wing nationalists could become the strongest force in the National Assembly. It is unclear whether this would be enough for an absolute majority, not least because local alliances are often formed between the two rounds of voting that influence the outcome. While the left could remain stable, Macron’s center camp is likely to lose seats.

Such an outcome would have serious consequences. The National Assembly is one of two French parliamentary chambers. It is involved in legislation and can bring down the government by means of a vote of no confidence. If a bloc other than Macron’s centrist camp were to gain an absolute majority, Macron would de facto be forced to appoint a prime minister from its ranks. This would result in what is known as cohabitation. Macron’s power would shrink significantly and the prime minister would become more important.

The right-wing nationalists are explicitly aiming to win the election and take on government responsibility. RN party leader Jordan Bardella is set to become prime minister. Brussels and Berlin are therefore also likely to follow the election closely.