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After France’s right-wing surge, parties seen scrambling to block a National Rally win

A person from behind looks at the campaign posters of outgoing deputy Danielle Simonnet (20th arrondissement of Paris, 15th constituency), member of the parliamentary group La France Insoumise (LFI NUPES, left-wing opposition), dissident candidate (part of the LFI frondeurs and frondeuses) in the early legislative elections, against the official candidate nominated by LFI for the Nouveau Front Populaire Celine Verzeletti (supported by Jean Luc Melenchon) in Paris, France on June 30, 2024.

Amaury Cornu | Afp | Getty Images

Left-wing and centrist parties in France are scrambling to block the rival National Rally from winning the ongoing parliamentary election, according to analysts, after support for the far-right faction surged in the first electoral round on Sunday.

Figures posted on Monday morning by the French Interior Ministry showed that the far-right National Rally (RN) and its allies had secured a combined 33.1% of votes, while the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance won 28% and French President Emmanual Macron’s centrist Together bloc garnered 20%.

The outcome of the first round of the election has led to discussions from left-wing and centrist politicians about how to minimize the amount of parliamentary seats secured by the RN in the second round of voting on July 7.

“Our objective is clear: to prevent the National Rally from having an absolute majority in the second round, from dominating the National Assembly and from governing the country with the disastrous project that it has,” French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, a Macron ally, wrote on social media platform X late on Sunday according to a CNBC translation.

“I say it with the force that the moment demands to each of our voters: not a single vote must go to the National Rally,” he added.

Tactical voting in the second round

French parliamentary elections typically take place in two rounds, with parties needing to secure at least 12.5% of votes in a constituency to proceed to the decisive second-round runoff.

“Over half the 577 parliamentary seats, a historically very high number, are expected to go to the second round with lots of tactical voting now likely,” Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note on Monday.

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Politicians from various left-wing and centrist parties have now called for candidates who placed third in races against far-right candidates to pull out of the election, in an effort to merge support in a single concentrated front against RN.

The ultimate outcome of the election will therefore depend on deal-making between left-wing and centrist parties, Mujtaba Rahman and Anna-Carina Hamker from the Eurasia Group said in a note on Sunday.

“All will now depend on a scramble between the left alliance and President Emmanuel Macron’s defeated center to make national and local deals to block possible RN victories in the second round next Sunday,” they said.

The large amount of seats that still have three candidates in the running means chances are high for the creation of so-called “Republican fronts” that could help defeat RN candidates who only narrowly won in the first round, Rahman and Hamker added.

Even so, other factors could still hamper ambitions to defeat the far right, they point out, saying voter turnout may be different and tactical voting may not prove as successful as was hoped. 

Three scenarios

Uncertainty about what lies ahead lingers, Pascal Lamy, Vice President for the Paris Peace Forum and former director general of the Wolrd Trade Organization, told CNBC on Monday.

“The second round looks extremely uncertain,” he said, adding that a lot of three-candidate races are set to be “very close.”

Three potential election outcomes remain, Lamy said: a far-right majority in parliament, a hung assembly or a coalition with the far right. He suggested that all three options currently remain on the table.

Second round of French election 'extremely uncertain' following far-right surge, Pascal Lamy says

Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg emphasized the second scenario.

“The most likely outcome remains a hung parliament in which neither the far right nor the united left nor the Macron’s centrists can muster a majority. In this case, any (new) government would not get much done,” he said on Monday.



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