Macron's gamble has kept the far right out — but plunged France into turmoil

  • President Emmanuel Macron took a huge bet by calling for a surprise election in France.

  • Macron risked losing what little power he had in the National Assembly to France's far-right bloc.

  • Voters rebuked the far-right party on Sunday, but now no political party holds a majority.

Marine Le Pen's attempt to put the far right in power in France has been blocked by a surprise left-wing victory — one that has plunged the country into chaos.

French voters rebuked the far-right, anti-immigration National Rally party during France's snap election, but with no group winning an absolute majority, the country has entered a period of uncertainty.

"Tonight, a new era begins," France's prime minister, Gabriel Attal, said, adding that France's destiny would play out "more than ever in parliament."

It means the European Union's second-largest economy is heading toward political gridlock just weeks before the world's eyes are focused on it for the Paris Olympics.

A hung parliament in France could also have implications for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Europe's economy, with French President Emmanuel Macron's influence significantly weakened.

A gamble by Macron

Macron took a huge bet in June by calling for a surprise legislative election soon after the National Rally, France's far-right bloc led by Le Pen, trounced the president's centrist Renaissance party in the European Union's parliamentary elections, winning more than twice the votes his coalition received.

The results pushed Macron's hand to dissolve the National Assembly — France's lower house, which holds more parliamentary power because it can pass laws — and take a huge gamble by calling for an early election.

By doing so, Macron hoped the voters would establish a stronger mandate in the lower house and strengthen his influence on the world stage.

The president, whose popularity in France was already declining, lost a majority in the National Assembly in 2022, leaving his coalition to push laws without a vote in the lower house using a controversial but legal constitutional tool.

The New York Times reported that Macron, without a majority in the lower house and relegated to political maneuvering, said his decision was inevitable.

But the gamble backfired.

On June 30, the National Rally party again dealt a huge blow to Macron's Renaissance party and its allies by securing 33% of votes in the first round of voting, which saw a high turnout.

The New Popular Front, a left-wing coalition formed for the snap election, secured 28% of the votes.

Macron's centrist coalition only received 20%.

For a brief moment, France appeared to be looking at the first far-right government to emerge since the Nazi occupation, according to The Associated Press.

The rise of the far right thwarted

However, on Sunday's second round of voting, the Times, citing France's polling institutes, reported that a boost in support for the leftist New Popular Front was projected to give it the most seats in the 577-member lower house — but not a majority.

The leftist alliance was projected to secure at least 177 seats, the Times reported.

According to official results released early Monday, the New Popular Front leftist coalition placed first with just over 180 seats. Macron's centrist alliance secured more than 160 seats.

Le Pen's far-right National Rally came in third, securing more than 140 seats.

All three main factions fell far short of the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly, said the Associated Press.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the left-wing alliance, called the results an "immense relief for a majority of people in our country," the AP reported.

The results don't favor the country's prime minister, Gabriel Attal, who is a member of Macron's centrist alliance.

Though local media reported that the election results signal the end of Attal's term, Reuters reported on Monday that Macron had asked him "to remain prime minister for the time being in order to ensure the country's stability."

Meanwhile, France's former president, François Hollande, will return to parliament. Hollande — who held the role from 2012 until 2017 — was elected with the Socialist Party, part of the New Popular Front alliance, BBC News reported.

In a statement to supporters as the projected results were announced, Hollande celebrated being able "to reduce the far-right not to the sidelines, but to a very small minority," the outlet said.

While Macron's gamble may have prevented the far right from coming to power in France, the future shape of the government may remain unclear for some time.

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