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First Round of French Legislative Elections: the Left Congratulates Itself on Its Success by Hélène de Lauzun

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First Round of French Legislative Elections: the Left Congratulates Itself on Its Success

The French people went to the polls on Sunday, June 12th, for the first round of the legislative elections, designed to send future deputies to the National Assembly for a five-year term.

For the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, the majority party of the president—elected on April 24th—did not decisively come out on top. The figures from the Ministry of the Interior indicate a marginal victory for the presidential coalition, gathered under the label “Ensemble!,” with 25.75% of the votes, followed closely by the union of the main parties of the Left, the NUPES, with 25.66%. These figures are being disputed, to the NUPES’ advantage. The newspaper Le Monde, which made its own calculations, estimates that the Union of the Lefts won with 26.10% against 25.81% for Ensemble!.

The election was marked by a very high abstention rate. The drop in participation in legislative elections has been constant for several years, however in 2022, the record was broken with 52.3%—once more a first under the Fifth Republic. 

These results expose the fragile security of Emmanuel Macron, who may have won the presidential election with a comfortable majority of 58%, but remains highly contested in the country, with a double opposition, on his left and on his right. 

The Rassemblement National came third, with 18.7% of the vote. Les Républicains are barely above the 10% threshold, while Éric Zemmour’s Reconquête party has 4.2%. The lack of alliances between the right-wing parties—RN, LR, and Reconquête—prevents them from multiplying their impact. The right-wing bloc represents 40% of the voters, but only two formations, RN and LR, will benefit from parliamentary groups, whose size is still difficult to predict at the moment.

For the time being, uncertainty prevails over seat projections and whether Macron’s party will obtain an absolute majority. Several ministers appointed to the government a few weeks ago are also in jeopardy, such as Amélie de Montchalin, who was appointed to a key position in government communication, that of “Ecological Transition.” Her mission was to embody the ecological concerns of Emmanuel Macron’s new mandate, but she could well be defeated on Sunday, June 19th, and thus forced to leave the government.

The alliance of the Left might be able to maintain itself in the second round in about 380 constituencies (out of 577). Its strong capacity for militant mobilisation suggests that the fight will be tough, in any case, in a duel between a Macron supporter and a member of the leftist coalition. 

In the event that the leftist NUPES finds itself facing a candidate from the Rassemblement National in the second round, several members of the government have already announced that they would support the far left against the so-called ‘far right.’ As a consequence, it is easy for the Rassemblement National to denounce the complicity existing between the NUPES and Ensemble!. 

The June 12th vote confirms the inability of the French Right to set up an effective strategy to win power, to the greater benefit of the Left in either of its appearances, as revolutionary and social with the NUPES, or liberal with Emmanuel Macron.

The second round will be held on Sunday, June 19th.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).