French exit polls point to National Rally leading in first vote round

French exit polls point to National Rally leading in first vote round
Politics

Supporters fly french flags as former president of the French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) parliamentary group Marine Le Pen gives a speech during the results evening of the first round of the parliamentary elections in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, on June 30, 2024. 

Francois Lo Presti | Afp | Getty Images

The first round of a snap parliamentary election in France has seen a surge in votes for the anti-immigrant National Rally party, with President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance coming in third place.

Early polling data from national broadcaster France 2 indicated that National Rally (RN) won 34% of the vote while the leftist New Popular Front (NFP) alliance got 28.1%. Macron’s centrist Together bloc garnered 20.3%, according to initial projections.

On Monday morning, France’s Interior Ministry published updated figures showing RN and its allies had won 33.1% of the vote, the NFP was in second with 28% and Macron’s coalition had reached 20%.

Hung parliament the most likely scenario in France, says analyst

The second round of voting on July 7 is the one to watch, according to Antonio Barroso, deputy director of Research at Teneo.

“First-round victories tend to say little about the overall results (absent a surprisingly high number of wins obtained by a specific party). This is why, beyond the overall percentage of votes for each party, the main issue to watch on Sunday night is how many candidates from each party will make it to the second round,” he said in a note Wednesday.

“If, as expected, Together does poorly in the first round, there will be numerous races between the NFP and the RN.”

Ahead of the first ballot, French voter polls suggested the hard-right National Rally party would win around 35% of the vote in the election, followed by the leftist NFP alliance and then a coalition of pro- Macron parties in third place.

As such, National Rally is widely expected to significantly increase the number of seats it has in France’s 577-seat parliament, the National Assembly, from the current level of 89.

Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella at the final rally before the June 9 European Parliament election, held at Le D̫me de Paris РPalais des Sports, on June 2, 2024.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Nonetheless, the Sunday projections suggest that no one party has won an outright majority of at least 289 seats after an initial round of voting, pointing to a hung parliament and a period of political and economic uncertainty following the ballots.

French President Emmanuel Macron will stay in office until 2027, whatever the vote outcome, but he could face pressure to elect a new prime minister from National Rally (even if the party falls short of an absolute majority in the final vote), with the most likely candidate being RN’s 28-year-old President Jordan Bardella.

That new PM would have significant say over France’s domestic and economic policy while Macron would remain in charge of foreign policy and defense. In any case, a so-called “cohabitation” could make government tricky, prompting some concern among economists as to how the vote could affect the euro zone’s second-largest economy.

French President Emmanuel Macron waits for guest arrivals for a conference in support of Ukraine with European leaders and government representatives on February 26, 2024 in Paris, France. 

Chesnot | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Macron shocked Europe’s political establishment when he called the snap ballot earlier in June after his Renaissance party was trounced in the European Parliament elections by National Rally.

Political analysts said Macron’s move was an extreme gamble, with the president betting that French citizens would fear and ultimately reject the prospect of a far-right government. Instead, he appears to have emboldened his political rivals.

— CNBC’s Charlotte Reed contributed to this article

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