Far right National Rally on course to form 'large' parliamentary group

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

France’s National Rally party (RN) came third in the first round of legislative elections on Sunday. Ahead in 108 of the 577 constituencies, the party’s performance gives weight to leader Marine Le Pen’s hopes to form a parliamentary group for the first time since 1986.

RN won 18.68 percent of the vote in the first round, well behind the left-wing Nupes alliance (25.66 percent) and the presidential majority Together (Ensemble) on 25.75 percent.

But it will field candidates in next Sunday's second round in more than 200 constituencies, and is in the lead in 108.

The party has significantly improved its score in the 2017 parliamentary elections, when it won 13.2 percent of the vote.

In 2017, 120 RN candidates went through to the second round, this year there will be 208 – a breakthrough for the anti-immigration, populist party.

"We are the only ones to have this strong momentum,” Marine Le Pen said on Sunday. “(Macron's) LREM is in strong decline, the Republicans are in a tailspin.”

Parliamentary group

The National Rally has just eight MPs at present and needs 15 to be able to form a group in parliament.

Jean-Lin Lacapelle, MEP and RN spokesperson, is in little doubt that will happen.

"We are the top party in France outside of a coalition,” he told RFI. "We’re progressing, up by 7 points, and we will have a massive group."

Le Pen was more realistic and spoke of "dozens of MPs [...] "if voters turn out".

The risk of low turnout is real.

A record 54 percent of voters didn’t go to the polls on Sunday and RN’s electorate – largely working class and young – are among those most likely to abstain.

Zemmour no more

Le Pen came out top in her fiefdom of Hénin-Beaumont, in northern France, with over 55 percent, beating Marine Tondelier the left-wing Nupes alliance candidate (22.6 percent).

But low participation levels deprived Le Pen of an outright win.

Candidates must win 25 percent of registered voters; Le Pen obtained 22.53 percent.

The party did well in the Pyrénées-Orientales in the southwest where it qualified in all four constituencies.

In the Var department in the southeast, the RN's candidate knocked out far-right firebrand and former presidential candidate Eric Zemmour.

Zemmour, the founder of Reconquest party (Reconquete), scored a respectable 23.19 percent but lost out to Philippe Lottiaux on 24.74.

The anti-Islam candidate, purveyor of the great replacement theory, finds himself with no obvious role to play in French politics for the moment.

No Reconquest candidates made it through to the second round meaning the party will have no representatives in parliament.

Le Pen – who had refused offers to ally with Zemmour – has appealed to Reconquest voters to rally round the RN candidate for the second round.

“If they want to have national MPs who defend France [...] they will find these MPs in the National Rally" she said.

Better than 1986

RN hopes to do even better than in 1986 when Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front, led 35 MPs into parliament.

“In terms of number of votes it’s a record, it marks the return of a far-right parliamentary group which hasn’t existed since 1986,” political scientist Dorian Dreuil told RFI.

Changes to the voting system has in effect made it harder for the far right to translate votes into seats in parliament.

“For the far right it’s a breakthrough which will also help them because there are financial considerations," Dreuil added.

"When you have a parliamentary group you get extra money, you're given more time to speak, more visibility as well. It’s a way of installing yourselves for the next five years.”

Every vote the party picks up is worth 1.64 euros per year – so RN's 4,248,626 votes are worth close to €7 million of public money. It's a welcome windfall for a party that is more than 20 million euros in debt.

Republican Front?

How many of the National Assembly's 577 seats RN will occupy will be decided next Sunday following the second round.

And much will hinge on whether the so-called Republican Front – where parties traditionally come together to block the far right – will operate in constituencies where RN is in a run-off against the left-wing Nupes alliance.

On Sunday evening Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne – who came out on top in her constituency in Normandy – caused a stir saying “no vote should go to the extremes,” putting Nupes in the same bag as the far-right National Rally.

Using RN's old name, she readjusted her stance.

"Our position is no vote for the National Front. When you have a Nupes candidate [who] doesn't respect Republican values, insults the police, calls for an end to support for Ukraine, wants to leave Europe, this candidate shouldn't get [our] vote," she said.

Read more on France's legislative elections here

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting