Making Sense of the Recent French Election!

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Dear Commons Community,

On Sunday night, joy: French voters had, once again, kept the far right out of power. On Monday morning, uncertainty: A hung parliament, shaky alliances and the threat of turbulent years ahead. As reported by CNN.

President Emmanuel Macron called France’s snap parliamentary election to “clarify” the political situation. But after the shock second-round results, the waters are more muddied than they have been in decades.

While a surge in support for the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) coalition foiled Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) party, French politics is now more disordered than it was before the vote.

So, what did we learn last night, who might be France’s next prime minister, and has Macron’s gamble “paid off?”

A shock victory, but not a decisive one

After leading the first round of voting last Sunday, the RN was closer to the gates of power than ever before, and was on the cusp of forming France’s first far-right government since the collaborationist Vichy regime of World War II.

But after a week of political bargaining, in which more than 200 left-wing and centrist candidates withdrew from the second round in a bid to avoid splitting the vote, the NFP – a cluster of several parties from the extreme left to the more moderate – emerged with the most seats in the decisive second round.

The NFP won 182 seats in the National Assembly, making it the largest group in the 577-seat parliament. Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance, which trailed in a distant third in the first round, mounted a strong recovery to win 163 seats. And the RN and its allies, despite leading the first round, won 143 seats.

Does that mean the NFP “won” the election? Not quite. Although the coalition has the most seats, it fell well short of the 289 seats required for an absolute majority, meaning France now has a hung parliament. If this was a victory for anything, it was the “cordon sanitaire,” the principle that mainstream parties must unite to prevent the extreme right from taking office.

A political science lesson in multi-party governments.



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