France: The Left’s Resistance Pact Proved Effective

Politics - July 11, 2024

France: Le Pen and Bardella defeated by record turnout

French voters returned to the polls on Sunday 7 July to elect the remaining members of the Assemblée Nationale. With 76 elected in the first round, as of June 30, 501 seats still remained to be assigned in the second round. While in the first round candidates had to score above 50% to be elected, in the run-off the candidate with the highest number of votes is elected, even if their score is below 50%.

The New Popular Front (comprised of La France Insoumise, the Socialist Party, and other environmentalist and left-wing formations) takes the lead in the legislative elections, claiming the post of Prime Minister and promising a name by the end of the week. Several names are in the running including Olivier Faure, Fabien Roussel, or even François Hollande: Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been excluded several times as a possible Head of Government.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal presented his resignation this morning, in response Emmanuel Macron asked him not to give up his position in order to “guarantee the stability of the country”. The Elysée has announced that the head of state will leave for Washington D.C. on Tuesday. to participate in the NATO summit, he will therefore wait for the “structuring of the new assembly” to “take the necessary decisions”. It seems clear that it is not easy to accept extreme left-wing leadership from the Macronians, especially after Mélenchon’s announcement that he “does not want agreements with Macron”.

Despite the left’s success, the far right has made considerable progress, securing a strong position in the new parliament. The Rassemblement National, led by Marine Le Pen, hoped to achieve a historic victory, aiming to become the largest party in the National Assembly for the first time. The party’s performance in the first round of elections, where it came first in the polls, fueled expectations of a turning point for the French right. However, the second round results painted a different picture.

At the end of the counting, the Rassemblement National stopped at 142 seats, the Nuovo Fronte Popolare at 178, and the Ensemble at 150. Two years ago the Lepenists had stopped at 89 seats, so there was still a substantial increase compared to previous performances of the party highlighting the growing support for far-right policies in France. The success of the far right can be attributed to several factors, including concerns about immigration, security, and the perceived failure of mainstream parties to address the needs of the French people.

The Rassemblement National has also managed to shed its marginal status and establish itself as a mainstream political force, with the potential to shape the future of French politics. However, the strategic unity of the French left, known as the “cordon sanitaire”, played a crucial role in hindering Jordan Bardella’s success in the recent parliamentary elections. By withdrawing candidates and supporting each other in the decisive second round, the centrist and left-wing parties effectively countered the momentum of the Lepenist right. Despite the far-right party’s strong performance in the first round, the cordon sanitaire allowed the left-wing coalition to emerge victorious, securing more seats than any other political faction.

However, public opinion is divided: on the one hand, the unions ask Emmanuel Macron to “respect the choice of the polls” and to “ask for the formation of a new government” around the program of the New Popular Front; on the other hand, many are unconvinced of a Mélenchon-led government (even without him as Prime Minister) with an abstention or external support from Macron. Firstly this would be yet another advert for Marine Le Pen given the presidential elections, secondly, because the agendas have important substantial differences, not least the position in foreign policy.

Macron is in fact in favor of an armed intervention in Ukraine and support for Israel, Mélenchon is in favor of peace between Russia and Ukraine and in full support of the Palestinian cause. Mélenchon is very against Macron’s pension reform, as well as wanting a much less liberal economic policy than the one proposed by Ensemble. In short, will the two agendas be able to find points of contact that are not “anyone but Le Pen”?