Far-Right National Rally Leads in First-Round Vote in France’s Legislative Elections

France’s high-stakes legislative elections have seen the far-right National Rally take a strong lead in the first-round vote, according to polling agencies’ projections. This outcome deals another blow to centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who called for the elections after his party’s defeat in the European Parliament election. Macron’s centrist grouping is projected to finish third in the first-round ballot, behind Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and a new left-wing coalition of parties. The ultimate outcome of the elections remains uncertain, with the decisive final voting set to take place next Sunday.

Projections by polling agencies suggest that the National Rally stands a good chance of winning a majority in the lower house of parliament for the first time. The party’s estimated one-third of the first-round vote is nearly double their 18% in the first round in 2022. Macron has urged voters to rally against the far right in the second round, while Le Pen called on voters to give the National Rally an “absolute majority” at parliament.

The elections have seen a high turnout, with 59% of registered voters casting their ballots three hours before polls closed. This is 20 percentage points higher than the turnout in the last first-round vote in 2022. The high turnout could potentially temper the outcome for the National Rally, as voters made an extra effort to cast their ballots for fear of the far right winning.

The campaign leading up to the elections has been marked by rising hate speech and growing divisions between the far right and far left blocs. Macron’s decision to call for early elections was an audacious gamble to mobilize voters in favor of moderate forces, but preelection polls indicated a chance of the National Rally winning a parliamentary majority. In the event of such a victory, Macron would be expected to name National Rally President Jordan Bardella as prime minister, leading to a power-sharing system known as “cohabitation.”

The results of the first round will provide a picture of voter sentiment, but the overall makeup of the next National Assembly remains uncertain. Predictions are difficult due to the complicated voting system and the possibility of parties forming alliances or pulling out of constituencies between the rounds. The National Rally’s support has spread widely, posing a challenge to Macron’s leadership.

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