Bubble bursts for France’s far-right as voters bar it from power

Supporters of the French far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally - RN) party react on Sunday after partial results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections in Paris. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

PARIS — The champagne was on ice at the far-right National Rally’s (RN) headquarters, but the celebratory mood swiftly turned to disbelief when the first projected results from Sunday’s parliamentary election appeared on TV screens.

For days, Marine Le Pen had confidently predicted that her party would triumph with an outright majority and her protege Jordan Bardella would be prime minister. Instead, the National Rally was on course to come third, behind a left-wing alliance and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist bloc.


It was undone to a large extent by tactical dealmaking between centrist and leftist opponents, who pulled more than 200 candidates from three-way races to avoid splitting the anti-RN vote.

The projected result brought to a shuddering halt what had appeared to be the far right’s relentless rise in France, carefully engineered by Le Pen who had sough to clean up her party’s image and tap the grievances of voters angry over living costs, strained public services, and immigration.

To be sure, Le Pen and her party have suffered disappointment before, most recently her 2022 defeat to Macron in the presidential election, and have managed to bounce back more strongly than before.

But for now, the outcome was a bitter pill to swallow.

“The results are disappointing and they don’t represent what French people want,” said Jocelyn Cousin, 18, who had come to party HQ expecting a victory party.

The RN’s momentum had appeared unstoppable after it trounced the centrists in European elections in early June and came first, ahead of the hastily assembled leftist New Popular Front, in the first round of the parliamentary vote on June 30.

Le Pen and Bardella attributed their party’s setback on Sunday to the what Bardella called the “disgraceful alliance” the anti-RN forces, who he said had caricatured the party and disrespected its voters.

But IPSOS pollster Brice Teinturier pointed to the RN’s own shortcomings, including revelations before the run-off that several of its candidates had expressed xenophobic views, raising questions over whether the party had really ditched its more toxic past.

“What happened is also that RN candidates themselves showed in this campaign that they either were not ready or had in their ranks candidates that are antisemitic, xenophobic or homophobic,” Teinturier told France 2 television.

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