Gains of the Left: What Did the Results of the Second Round of the French Legislative Elections Reveal?

On July 7, 2024, 49.3 million French voters were called to cast their votes in the second round of the snap elections. This followed the unexpected dissolution of the National Assembly by French President Emmanuel Macron on June 9, 2024, which came after the National Rally party’s victory in the European Parliament elections. This call to vote was accompanied by fears of radical changes in the French political landscape, potentially turning the country into one governed by the far-right or an ungovernable state with a deeply divided parliament split into three major blocs, none holding an absolute majority.

Key Indications

The main indications of the second round of the French legislative elections can be summarized as follows:

Decline of the National Rally in the Second Round: The biggest surprise in the results was the National Rally party finishing third with 143 seats, contrary to all polls which had placed it in the lead and speculated whether it would achieve an absolute majority (289 seats). This result takes into account the candidates allied with Eric Ciotti. The party had won 39 seats in the first round on June 30, 2024, with 33% of the votes, and had also led in the European elections with 31.37%.

Rise of the New Popular Front: The New Popular Front (NFP), a left-wing coalition led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, came first in the second round, securing 182 seats, showing growth compared to its 2022 results (previously known as NUPES, with 149 seats). The coalition “Together” (comprising Renaissance, Democratic Movement, and Horizons) secured 168 seats, down from 250 in 2022. The right-wing Republicans party came fourth with 46 seats.

No Absolute Majority for Any Party: With the first round results on June 30, 2024, analyses agreed that the National Rally was the only party theoretically capable of obtaining an absolute majority. Neither the NFP nor “Together” was expected to win alone. Despite predictions, the second round results showed the NFP holding a relative majority instead of the National Rally.

Reinforcement of the “Republican Front” Against the Right: The number of three-way contests (where candidates from three different orientations compete) decreased to 94 (out of 306) after withdrawals in 212 constituencies by July 2. Many left and centrist candidates withdrew to avoid enhancing the far-right’s chances of winning. These withdrawals changed the situation in 160 constituencies.

Increased Voter Turnout in the Second Round: Higher voter turnout was a key factor in blocking the National Rally from achieving an absolute majority. Mobilizing voters from centrist and left-wing blocs was essential to preventing the far-right’s ascent to power. Turnout in the second round was 67.1%, compared to 66.7% in the first round (and 46.7% in the second round of the 2022 legislative elections).

Impact of Vote Transfer: Party leaders opposing the far-right instructed their supporters to vote for NFP candidates if they were not from Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise, leading to more direct contests. In 197 constituencies, the National Rally faced a single opponent, simplifying voter choices. Effective vote transfer between centrists and the left provided significant leads over the far-right in many cases.

Political Complications

The second round results led to several potential scenarios:

Possibility of Forming a Technocratic Government: Article 12 of the constitution prohibits a new dissolution of parliament within a year to manage parliamentary instability. Without a clear majority, a technocratic government might be formed, focusing on economic stability and reforms, avoiding direct political responsibility for unpopular measures.

Potential Dispute Over Military Command: If cohabitation occurs between Macron and the far-right, a conflict could arise over who commands the armed forces. Marine Le Pen suggested that the actual command should lie with the Prime Minister, contrary to traditional practice where the President holds this role.

Avoidance of Radical Policies by the Far-Right: Analysts believe the far-right might continue supporting pro-Western and pro-European policies, similar to Viktor Orbán in Hungary or Giorgia Meloni in Italy, while emphasizing issues of identity and immigration.

Continued Attack on Macron’s Policies by the Far-Right: Marine Le Pen indicated that their victory was only delayed and criticized Macron’s policies for the left’s advancement.

Possibility of Forming a Grand Coalition Government: A grand coalition of centrist forces (Renaissance, Socialists, Greens, and Republicans) might form, excluding France Insoumise and the National Rally, maintaining a non-partisan foreign policy under the President’s domain.

Potential Leftist Disputes Over the Prime Minister Nominee: Although the left demands to lead the government based on their electoral success, internal disagreements persist on the nominee for Prime Minister. Some suggest a vote among all left-wing MPs to decide the candidate.

In conclusion, Jordan Bardella is unlikely to become Prime Minister as a result of these elections. Instead, a leftist candidate is more probable, leading to a cohabitation government or a grand coalition. The French two-round electoral system effectively prevents the far-right from gaining power. Despite three major blocs in parliament (left, far-right, center), none holding an absolute majority, forming coalitions within these blocs is seen as the best solution, akin to the German political system.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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