French far right scores big win in first round of election, polls show

French far right scores big win in first round of election, polls show
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Early projections indicate that the Rassemblement National party has won a landslide victory in the first round of elections for the French National Assembly, bringing the nationalist, anti-immigration party to power for the first time.

Polling projections suggest the party won about 34% of the vote, far ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party and its allies, who won about 21%. The scores do not reliably predict how many parliamentary seats each party will win, but National Rally is likely to be the largest force in the lower house, though not necessarily with an overall majority.

A coalition of left-wing parties, the New Popular Front, won about 29% of the vote. Voter turnout was very high, over 65%, compared to 47.51% in the first round of the last parliamentary elections in 2022.

For Macron, this result is a major setback. After the publication of the projections, he called for a “grand democratic and republican alliance for the second round.”

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Rassemblement National, said France had voted “without ambiguity.” She urged her supporters to ensure her protégé, Jordan Bardella, becomes the next prime minister.

Macron’s decision to call an election now, just weeks before the Paris Olympics, surprised many, including his own prime minister. He believed it was his democratic duty to gauge French sentiment through a national vote and expected insurmountable opposition to his deficit-reduction budget by October.

The National Rally could secure an absolute majority of 289 seats in the 577-seat parliament in the second round of voting. Macron’s party and its allies, who have won about 250 seats since the last parliamentary vote in 2022, have struggled to implement their program due to their lack of an overall majority and the difficulty of forming stable coalitions.

Despite successes such as reducing unemployment, Macron had lost touch with the people who supported the National Rally. These voters felt patronized by the president and believed he did not understand their struggles. They supported the party that blamed immigrants for their problems, even though an aging France needs them.

The National Rally’s rise has been steady. Founded more than half a century ago as the National Front by Jean-Marie Le Pen and Pierre Bosquet, the party faced a long-standing barrier to entering government. Marine Le Pen expelled her father from the party in 2015, rebranded it, and abandoned some extreme positions, such as leaving the European Union.

Macron, who will step down in 2027, looks set to face a tough three years. The National Rally could shape much of the national agenda if it wins the prime ministership. Macron has vowed not to resign and retains control over foreign and military policy, but the National Rally could seek to limit his power if it wins an absolute majority.

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