X Close

Has Marine Le Pen conquered the centrists?

RN supporters had a lot to cheer about on election night. Credit: Getty

June 30, 2024 - 11:05pm

In a sign of how charged up the French electorate was, voting participation during tonight’s election increased by 21% compared to the legislative elections in 2022. The results were largely foreseen by the polling, with the Rassemblement National-Les Republicains alliance coming in top with 34% of the vote. Emmanuel Macron’s centrist bloc, meanwhile, finished a distant third with 21%.

There remain a number of unknowns. Only at the upper limit of its most favourable polls does the RN have shot at an absolute majority. Even then, that upper limit of projection sees the party gain 290 seats — five above the 285 needed for a majority. What’s more, there is an unprecedented number of “triangulars”, three-way battles between the different blocs in the second round. We can expect around 250 of these contests. This means that vote transfers are vitally important. But how will different voting blocs react to the circumstances?

The Leftist parties have said they will withdraw their candidates where they come third, meaning that Left-wing voters will likely do what they have done in the last two presidential elections and vote to faire barrage (erect the barricade) against the far-Right. Macron and his Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, however, have called for alliances to include “those who share republican values”.

This framing is important, as in their eyes Left-populists La France Insoumise (LFI) often don’t fall into the republican category. LFI is the largest of the Left parties, so it’s currently unclear how Macronists will play it. François-Xavier Bellamy, a high-profile Les Republicains dissident who recently broke with the party, did not call on his voters to go any particular way, but he did say that he preferred the RN to LFI.

This means that the future of the Republic lies with the instincts of centrist voters. In recent years, many journalists and politicians on the Right have abandoned the language of the “republican front”, opting instead for the “republican arc”. The front represented a single wall against the far-Right, whereas the arc represents the spectrum of acceptable political opinion with the populist Left and radical Right excluded at the margins. A key question as France heads into its triangular showdowns is which set of messaging France’s centrists will listen to. Will they decide to uphold a crumbling tradition of blocking out the Rassemblement National from power? Or will they decide that the Left are the real extremists and vote against Macron, their tribune.

The coming week will see mobilisations and counter-mobilisations by Left and Right. There will be turbulence in the markets, which have already threatened to constrain a potential government of the RN or New Popular Front. And we will see alliances formed, scalps claimed, and victories won that would have been unthinkable even three weeks ago. The head of the French Parti Communiste Francais has already fallen, as has a former François Hollande minister and Damien Abad, a minister in Macron’s government under the prime ministership of Elisabeth Borne.

Meanwhile, Marie-Caroline Le Pen — Marine’s sister, —enters a tense triangular in Sarthe. A hung parliament is the most probably outcome — although it is possible for the RN to win an outright majority. If it does, this may not last for long, Le Figaro reports that the Macronists are planning another election for a year’s time when he is constitutionally able to dissolve parliament again. Macron gambled and lost, but he remains determined to cling to power.


Olly Haynes is a freelance journalist covering politics, culture and the environment

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

5 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Lindsay
David Lindsay
24 days ago

The satirically named Ensemble will keep up appearances, but which way will its voters jump? While pre-existing conservative phenomena have been known to ally with Fascism, usually to their own ruin, it is the liberal bourgeoisie that keeps Fascism in reserve for when it might ever face any serious demand to share its economic or social power with anyone who did not have it before the rise of the bourgeois liberal order, or to share its cultural or political power with anyone at all.

In signs of things to come on the Far Right even in Britain, the Rassemblement National has little of the Euroscepticism of the old Front National, while on Gaza and on Ukraine, Jordan Bardella is as useless as Giorgia Meloni; Jean-Luc MĂ©lenchon is also keeping some regrettable company. Nigel Farage is as bad as Bardella and Meloni on Gaza, but with no Workers Party or Left Independent candidate at Clacton, his election would at least contribute to the debate on Ukraine.

Where Farageism remains in the Rightist mainstream is in its lumpenproletarian electoral base, waiting to be mobilised by the centrists against any insoumission. The seat that Reform UK stands its best chance of winning is Clacton, where 50 per cent of the adult population is economically inactive (that is, not even looking for work), and 20 per cent, one in five, has never had a job of any kind.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
24 days ago

Le Pen and the RN are the sensible, moderate centrists. Their opponents hold the extremist positions – they offer extremist leftism (popular front) or extremist globalism (Macron).

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
24 days ago

Seems like Emmanuel Macron comes out on top again. Crafty, isn’t he.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
24 days ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

On verra…

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
24 days ago

None of it really matters. The actual government of France isn’t in Paris. It’s in Frankfurt.