French elections: New Popular Front must yet win a war against the far right

With Marine Le Pen’s RN party placing third, hopes for a left-centre coalition government are bright; but it's just one big battle that's been won

Voters dealt a blow to the far-right RN party, placing the NFP first (photo: @JLMelenchon/X)
Voters dealt a blow to the far-right RN party, placing the NFP first (photo: @JLMelenchon/X)

Nitya Chakraborty

French voters made history in the second round of the national elections on 7 July, dashing the hopes of the Marine le Pen's far-right party, the RN, and giving the highest number of seats (182) to the New Popular Front (NFP).

The left alliance was followed by President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance (163), pushing the far right RN, which was looking to grab power, to third position — practically, last of the forerunners — with 143 seats.

Thus, in a house of 577, the Left and the Macron-led centrists have a total strength of 345, as against the majority figure of 289. The other parties, including the right and fringe left groups, have together got the remaining 89 seats.

The election results have come as a massive boost for the left in France, as also in Europe, and a bit of a surprise.

After all, in the first round on 30 June, the RN was at the top position — far ahead of the NFP, which held second place, and followed by President Macron’s party in third. Those results were followed by massive campaigning by the far-right party and media forecasts that in the second and the final round, the RN would get a majority or near-majority, leading to a neo-fascist takeover of the French government.

This possibility immediately led to discussions among the NFP and the centrists, aiming for a tactical alliance between the two anti-far right combines to prevent Le Pen’s party from reaching a majority.

Accordingly, tactical withdrawals took place in more than 200 seats officially — and unofficially in many others — just on the eve of the second round on Sunday (7 July), leading to the RN's big loss in the final round.

In particular, it is evident that the usually disaffected French middle-class voter overcame their ennui to go out and vote in the second round, just to keep the far right out of power — given that 66.63 per cent of votes polled on 7 July, the highest in any national election in France since 1981. This was only possible due to the way the NFP and President Macron’s centrists closed ranks immediately after the June 30 results.

The French Communist Party and its trade unions took a leading role in the anti-right campaign before the second round. President Macron and his centrist colleagues also reciprocated by agreeing to a tactical withdrawal formula.

So, what now?

President Macron, who got a shock after the 30 June results, has now got back the confidence that his centrist alliance is comfortably placed in second position, ahead of the challenger RN.

The possibility of a far-right takeover is done for the time being. President Macron keeps his tenure till 2027.

Macron will have to organise the formation of a new government now, of course — a coalition government of the NPF and the Macronists to last till the end of his tenure.

The New Popular Front (NFP) now, as the largest group in the French parliament, has the right to be called first to form the coalition.

It is expected that the NFP will seek the cooperation of the Macronites to ensure a stable coalition, which will have a strength of 345 out of the total seats of 577 in the Parliament. But the NFP has a radical programme, which challenges some of the present policies of the incumbent president.

Will President Macron be amenable to the NFP programme or will the NFP agree to dilute its programme in the interests of the coalition? That is the big question.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, meanwhile, announced on Sunday night that he would hand in his resignation to president Macron on Monday morning (8 July). But he also said he could stay in place for the short term, if required, while a new government was formed. “Tonight, a new era begins,” he said, adding that France’s destiny would play out “more than ever in parliament”.

Attal said: “I know that, in the light of tonight’s results, a lot of French people feel uncertainty about the future because no majority has emerged. Our country is in an unprecedented political situation and is preparing to welcome the world [at the Olympics] in a few weeks. I will stay in my role as long as duty requires.”

The leader of NFP, Jean Luc Melenchon, meanwhile, said that the president must invite the NFP to form the new government, but the outgoing French interior minister was not in agreement with him. He said Melenchon’s party did not get enough seats.

The Socialist Party, the leading partner of the NFP, has been very pragmatic. The party leaders said, “We are ahead, but we are in a divided parliament. So we have to act like grown-ups, to talk, to discuss and to engage in dialogue.”

As for the far-right RN party, they clearly did not do as well as the opinion polls predicted or the expectations of their leaders, but they have gained in strength compared to the last parliament. Now, the RN has 143 seats, as against the 88 seats they held earlier. So the immediate threat from the RN may be over, but the long-term threat remains.

Marine Le Pen is also expected to stand in the next presidential elections in 2027. The far right may gain further ground if, in the next three years, the left and the centrists fail to run the coalition government succesfully.

Jordan Bardella, the RN president, said the parties who had teamed up to stop the far right were a “disgraceful alliance”. RN supremo Le Pen also agreed the far right’s rise to power will continue: “The tide is rising. It did not rise high enough this time, but it continues to rise and our victory has simply been deferred.”

She is right to some extent. If the Left and centrists fall out in the coming days and there is no tactical understanding in the coming presidential elections, the RN candidate may win.

For now, however, the French people have given their verdict against the far right in the 7 July elections.

It is time for the NFP and President Macron’s party to honour and enact that verdict by forming a coalition with a common programme to run the government. The NFP consists of many parties, which likewise have to stick together.

This new front cannot afford to get split up like the one after the 2022 presidential elections. Both Melenchon and other NFP leaders will have to be serious about continuing the battle against the far right so that Le Pen cannot win in 2027.

Courtesy: IPA

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