Analysis: France’s far right may be on the brink of power after Macron’s gamble backfired. Here’s what comes next | CNN (2024)

Analysis: France’s far right may be on the brink of power after Macron’s gamble backfired. Here’s what comes next | CNN (1)

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron visit a polling station to vote in the first round of the early parliamentary elections in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, on June 30, 2024.

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The man who once described his leadership style as Jupiterian now resembles Icarus, after he played with political fire and got burnt.

French President EmmanuelMacron’s centrist alliance was crushed on Sundayafter the far-right National Rally (RN) partysurged in the first round of the country’s parliamentary elections.

Once seen as a fringe movement theRNcouldnowbe positioned to assume power, after winning 33% of the vote. It would thenbecome the first far-right party to enter the French government sinceWorld WarII– although nothing is certainahead of Sunday’ssecond round.

The left-wing alliance, New Popular Front, also did well,comingsecond with 28% of the vote.

Meanwhile,Macron’s Ensemble alliance trailedin third place with 21% of the vote, leaving many in his camp to ponder why the president called the snap election in the first place.

“Tonight is not a night like any other,”Prime MinisterGabriel Attal said solemnly in an address to the French. “The far-right are at the gates of power.”

There’s a long way to go in this election yet, however,sowhat happens next?

Three rival blocs

Only 76 candidates were elected to the 577-seat parliament on Sunday:39from the RN and its allies, 32 from the New Popular Front, and just two lawmakers from Macron’s alliance.

The rest of the seatswill bedecided in the second round next weekend, and huge amounts ofpolitical bargaining and maneuveringareexpected beforethen.This coulddetermine whether atrulyseismic shift is underway in French politics,andthe landscapeisnow divided between three rival blocs.

It’s created an unprecedented situation, with a record number of three-way races poised to take placeon Sunday–306 compared with onlyeightin 2022.

The Praetorium, a building occupied by Euronext, the European stock exchange and trading floor in the La Defense business district to the west of Paris, Courbevoie, France on 7 June 2024. (Photo by Antoine Boureau / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP) (Photo by ANTOINE BOUREAU/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images) Antoine Boureau/Hans Lucas/AFP/Getty Images Related article French election results boost stocks and the euro

Onlythosecandidates who make it past the 12.5% threshold make it to the runoff. Typically, most constituencies only see two candidates go through, but this year, around half will see three candidates proceed to the next round–a first in France’s modern history.

Those three-way races benefit candidates who came out on top in the first round and with the RN in a lead position in over half of the runoffs, some parties are strategizing to block the far-right. They don’t have much time, as candidates needto decidewhetherthey willrun or not before Tuesday night.

Theleft-wing New Popular Front has announced that it will withdraw all candidates who came in third to help prevent far-right candidates from getting elected.

Macron’s alliance has not been as clear with only his prime minister insisting that “not one vote should go to the far-right.”

Ultimately, it all remains just guidance – withdrawing or not is up to the individual candidates, and voters will make their own choices.

A grenade to global order

This parliamentary election has captivated people domestically – the exceptional turnoutof 67%speaks for itself, but the rest of the world should pay close attention too.

Far-right doyenne Marine Le Pen’s RN partyis notoriously euroskeptic, and though it no longer talks of a full-blown “Frexit,”or French departure from the European Union,its manifesto puts into question the very foundations of the European project.

TheRNhas made it clear it would seek to weaken the union, and regainmorecontrol of its borders and sovereignty. Once in power, and with Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Hungary’s Viktor Orban as far-right allies, their plans for Europe could carry a lot more weight.

If theRNdoes dominate parliament, it will also be good news forRussian President VladmirPutin.Le Pen has also only briefly criticized Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, having also previously taken a huge loan from a Russian bank and boastedofher “admiration for Vladimir Putin.”

Ahead of the election, Le Pen questioned the role of the president in military affairs.Macron has pledged to see out the remainder of his final presidential term, which runs until 2027.Constitutionally, the president heads the army, and Macron has not eliminated the possibility of sending French troops to Ukraine.

France's President Emmanuel Macron leaves the polling booth prior to cast his vote in the first round of parliamentary elections at a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France on June 30, 2024. A divided France is voting in high-stakes parliamentary elections that could see the anti-immigrant and eurosceptic party of Marine Le Pen sweep to power in a historic first. The candidates formally ended their frantic campaigns at midnight June 28, with political activity banned until the first round of voting. Yara Nardi/AFP/Getty Images Related article Far right leads first round of France’s parliamentary election in blow to Macron

Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old leader of RN, has categorically said that as prime minister, he would not let any French soldier set foot in Ukraine, throwing the French constitutional order into question.

In 2022, Le Pen alsosaid shewanted to leave the military wing of NATO – but her party has since backtracked,saying that wouldn’t happen as long as the war in Ukraine is ongoing.

Macron’s party is already governing inthe country’s lower house, the National Assembly,without a majority after its poorer-than-expected showing in the 2022 legislative elections, forcing it either to seek out coalitions to pass legislation, or use a constitutional tool to force through new laws.

But falling behind to either the left or right could be the death knell to his agenda. A loss would force Macron to nominate a prime minister from whichever party wins – putting a political opponent in charge of running the government.

Bardella has said that he would only govern if his party wins an absolute majority – and with the first round suggesting none of the parties will win those 289 necessary seats, there is no obvious prime minister in sight.

It could be a political deadlock in France for at least the next year –and acrisis for President Macron, arguably of his own making.

Analysis: France’s far right may be on the brink of power after Macron’s gamble backfired. Here’s what comes next | CNN (2024)
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