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Opinion | What Just Happened in France Is Astounding

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the results of the 2024 French parliamentary elections, in which the far-right National Rally party was defeated despite strong initial results, and a left-wing coalition called the New Popular Front emerged as the largest force in the National Assembly.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Advertisement, Guest Essay, David Broder

1. What were the key results of the first and second rounds of the 2024 French parliamentary elections?

  • In the first round, the National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen came first with 33% support, topping more than half the local races.
  • However, in the second round, the National Rally's lead candidate Jordan Bardella fell far short of winning the prime minister's office, and the party came in third with 143 seats, an expansion from its previous 89 seats but still a far cry from what was projected.
  • The left-wing New Popular Front coalition emerged as the largest force, with 182 seats, while President Macron's coalition came in second with 168 seats.

2. What factors contributed to the defeat of the National Rally party?

  • Cooperation among National Rally's opponents was central to the turnaround. Over 200 third-place candidates from the New Popular Front and Macron's coalition stood down, allowing other candidates clear runs.
  • Voters, especially left-wingers, answered the call to back whoever could beat the National Rally candidate in duels.
  • This mobilization was remarkable, given the mixed messages from government figures, with some refusing to stand down in favor of the left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

3. What challenges does the New Popular Front coalition face?

  • The New Popular Front is far from united, with tumultuous relations between Mélenchon and the center-left Socialists and Greens, as well as the Communists.
  • Center-left figures in the coalition have already hinted at a rapprochement with Macron and a split with the more radical left, suggesting the coalition may soon begin to splinter.

[02] The Continued Strength of the Far Right

1. How has the National Rally party's performance in parliamentary elections changed?

  • The party has historically performed poorly in parliamentary elections due to its weak local roots, but now it has 143 seats, a historic high.
  • The party's support has nearly doubled among white-collar employees, so-called midranking professionals and top managers, in addition to its traditional base among blue-collar workers.

2. What challenges does the defeat of the National Rally party in this election pose for the future?

  • While the far right was stopped, it has still advanced significantly and will fight the 2027 presidential election from a much stronger starting point, including through an expansion of its support into the mainstream right-wing electorate.
  • The anti-Le Pen vote is full of contradictions, as the left has sharply opposed Macron not only on economic policy but also on questions of identity and border controls, suggesting more ructions are to come.

3. What is the overall impact of the election results?

  • The real result of this election is gridlock, as the new National Assembly will be even messier than the last one, with Macron possibly tempted to play fast and loose with alliances to strengthen his authority.
  • However, one thing is certain: France won't be getting a far-right government, which is something to celebrate.
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