by Paul Taylor * – European Policy Centre, OtherNews

Sooner or later, possibly as early as next week, France’s far-right National Rally (RN) is going to take power. That’s the main lesson of Sunday’s first round of snap parliamentary elections, in which Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration nationalists amplified their European election score on a far higher turnout.

President Emmanuel Macron’s gamble of dissolving parliament and seeking a “clarification” from voters after an ultra-short three-week campaign backfired spectacularly on his own supporters. His centrist coalition finished a distant third behind the RN and the leftwing New Popular Front (NFP) in the popular vote and looks set to keep fewer than 100 of its 249 seats in the 577-member national assembly. After Sunday’s first ballot, Macron called for a “broad rally in support of republican and democratic candidates” and against the extreme right. But few people are listening.

The Macron era is over, even if the president stays in the Élysée palace until his term ends in 2027. The electorate overwhelmingly rejected him for the second time in a month. His hold on both domestic and European policy will be seriously diminished, whatever the outcome of next week’s run-offs.

France, a founder member and driving force in the European Union, a G7 economy, nuclear power and permanent member of the UN security council, is set to become a more awkward, inwardly focused partner in EU and Nato negotiations, a less enthusiastic supporter of Ukraine and a brake on further European integration.

Whether the RN wins an absolute majority in next Sunday’s second round and Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protege, becomes prime minister, or whether it falls short and France endures a period of instability with a hung parliament, it is only a matter of time now before the Eurosceptic France-first nationalists gets its day in government.

“The extreme right is at the gates of power,” the prime minister, Gabriel Attal said in a sombre appeal to voters to do everything to block the road to the RN. The party founded by convicted Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen won 33% with some 10.6 million votes and 37 seats outright on Sunday, mostly in its northern rust-belt and southern sun-belt strongholds. The hastily cobbled-together leftwing alliance dominated by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s radical France Unbowed party took 28% and the centrist Ensemble bloc 20.76%. The conservative Republicans (LR) scored 6.56% after their leader, Eric Ciotti, defected to ally with the RN.

Projections by polling institutes based on Sunday’s results suggest the RN would have 240 to 270 seats after the run-offs, the NFP would win 180 to 200, Macron’s centrists 60 to 90 and the centre-right (Gaullist) LR 30 to 50 seats, with up to 20 going to other candidates. It takes 289 seats for a majority, so those forecasts point to a hung parliament with no clear majority, which would struggle to pass a budget, possibly prompting Macron to dissolve the assembly again in 12 months’ time.

There are still many uncertainties since in more than 300 constituencies, three or more candidates won enough votes to contest the second ballot. They have until 6pm (5pm BST) on Tuesday to decide whether to stay in the race or pull out and heed calls to unite against the RN.

The momentum behind the RN seems so strong, and the chances of the forces of the centre right, the centre and the left uniting in just five days of campaigning to block its victory so uncertain, that Bardella may yet pull off a surprise overall majority next week.

Voters of the right and the left united to repudiate Macron’s vertical, technocratic style of government and his liberalising, supply-side economic policies. Sunday’s results were at least partly payback for his unpopular pension and labour market reforms that raised the retirement age and reduced the duration of unemployment benefit, triggering mass protests.

Le Pen’s party has jettisoned or postponed several of its most costly economic promises and may well tread cautiously on fiscal policy to avoid spooking financial markets that have already raised the political risk premium on holding French stocks and bonds.

However, Bardella would want to throw red meat to his followers on signature issues such as immigration and security. The RN remains determined to abolish the birthright to citizenship for children of foreigners born on French soil, and to introduce discrimination in favour of French citizens in welfare, housing and public employment. This “national preference” seems bound to bring it into conflict with the constitutional council and the council of state, France’s highest jurisdictions, leading to a potential constitutional crisis if the government seeks to ignore or emasculate the courts.

Likewise in Europe, the RN’s avowed plans to withdraw from the EU electricity market and to demand a rebate on France’s EU budget contribution could lead to clashes with Brussels. An RN-led government would likely resist implementation of EU climate legislation and seek to overturn bans on chemical pesticides and combat environmental regulations that sparked crippling protests by French farmers earlier this year.

On the cover photo, Marine le Pen from Front National ©magicinfoto/



* Paul Taylor is a senior visiting fellow at the European Policy Centre