Tuesday, July 23, 2024

What just happened in France’s shock election?

(BBC News) Nobody expected this. High drama, for sure, but this was a shock.


When the graphics flashed up on all the big French channels, it was not the far right of Marine Le Pen and her young prime-minister-in-waiting Jordan Bardella who were on course for victory.


It was the left who had clinched it, and Emmanuel Macron’s centrists had staged an unexpected comeback, pushing the far-right National Rally (RN) into third.


Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the veteran left-wing firebrand seen by his critics as an extremist, wasted no time in proclaiming victory.


“The president must call on the New Popular Front to govern,” he told supporters in Stalingrad square, insisting Macron had to recognize that he and his coalition had lost.


His alliance, drawn up in a hurry for President Macron’s surprise election, includes his own radical France Unbowed, along with Greens, Socialists and Communists, and even Trotskyists. 


But their victory is nowhere big enough to govern.

France is going to have a hung parliament. None of the three blocs can form an outright majority by themselves of 289 seats in the 577-seat parliament.


As soon as he had spoken, Mélenchon went off to a much bigger square, Place de la République, to celebrate his success with a crowd of 8,000 people, according to police numbers.


For National Rally’s supporters, the champagne was fast turning flat at their celebration-gone-wrong in the Bois de Vincennes forest to the south-west of Paris.


Only a week ago, all the talk had been of a possible absolute majority, and Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella were still talking up their chances a couple of days before the vote.


Marine Le Pen put a brave face on it. “Two years ago, we had just seven MPs. Tonight RN is the first party in France in terms of MP numbers.”


In the last parliament, they had 88 MPs, and now more than 140, so she was right. And no other party has more than 100 MPs, because the Macronists and the Popular Front are both coalitions.


Jordan Bardella complained that his party had been foiled by unnatural “alliances of dishonour”, forged by a “single party” made up of the Macron camp and the left. He wasn’t wrong about the unnatural alliance, but it is only a temporary one of convenience.


More than 200 candidates who saw themselves as part of a “republican front”, pulled out of the second round so that a better-placed rival could stop RN from winning. 


Not even Marine Le Pen’s younger sister Marie-Caroline was able to offer a glimmer of good news from her own election battle around Le Mans.


Her bid to get into parliament failed by just 225 votes, defeated by Mélenchon’s candidate, Elise Leboucher, after the Macron candidate dropped out.


Turnout, at 66.63%, was the highest in a parliamentary second round since 1997. Even if RN’s vote held up, this time it was having to contend with non-RN votes often being used tactically to create a “barrage” or block against them.


All over France, RN was losing runoffs it needed to win.




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