The far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) surprised all by winning more than 80 seats in the second round of legislative elections on Sunday (19 June), according to initial estimates.
This is a historic result for the RN, which far exceeds its performance in the 2017 legislative elections, when the party sent eight MPs to the National Assembly.
The RN received 18.68% of the vote in the first round on Sunday (12 June) and estimates put it then at between 15 and 30 seats – enough to create a parliamentary group, the first since 1986.
In a speech following the first results, Marine Le Pen, leader of the party and candidate for re-election in Pas-de-Calais, congratulated her troops: “This parliamentary group will be by far the largest in the history of our political family”.
She said that the parliamentary group, which she is expected to lead, will act as “a firm opposition to Emmanuel Macron, without connivance, and respectful of the institutions”.
“Blocking the extreme right at all costs no longer works”
This is a largely unexpected outcome, as the voting system for the legislative elections tends to disadvantage more radical candidates who struggle to obtain votes when facing moderate candidates in the second round.
Despite her 41.45% in the second round of the presidential elections last April, Marine Le Pen did not manage to impose herself in the campaign ahead of the legislative elections – leaving it to NUPES and Ensemble, the presidential majority coalition, to set the tone.
However, she had urged voters to give the RN “a real parliamentary group”, in order to be able to refer laws to the Constitutional Council for legal scrutiny. The call, so it seems, was heard by her electoral base.
How to explain such an underestimation of the RN score after the first round? According to Mathieu Gallard, research director at Ipsos France, “blocking the extreme right at all costs no longer works at the local level: in the context of NUPES/RN face-offs, Ensemble voters abstained”. This led to RN victories.
In a tweet, Mélanie Vogel, a Europe Ecologie Les Verts senator, accused the presidential majority of putting “an equal sign between the far right and NUPES [thus] turning its back on republican values”.
This new political situation will force Macron to strike deals with other parties in order to achieve an absolute majority – putting the RN at the heart of any new parliamentary dynamic.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]