French voters reject a far-right majority in favour of the left

Final results say a coalition of the French left has won the most seats in legislative elections.

The leftist coalition has taken the most seats in parliament with 182 – well short of the 289 needed to control the National Assembly.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists have 168 seats. Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally have 143 seats after leading in the first round.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said he plans to resign, but will remain in the post during the upcoming Paris Olympics and for as long as needed.

The most prominent of the leftist coalition’s leaders, Jean-Luc Melenchon, said it “is ready to govern.”

There will likely be weeks of intense political negotiations to choose a new prime minister and form a government.

People react to the projection of results for the second round of the legislative elections in Nantes, western France
People react to the projection of results for the second round of the legislative elections in Nantes, western France (Jeremias Gonzalez/AP)

Cries of joy also rang out in Republique plaza in eastern Paris, with people spontaneously hugging strangers and several minutes of non-stop applause after the projections landed.

Mr Macron’s office said the president would “wait for the new National Assembly to organise itself” before making any decisions.

Ms Le Pen’s far right drastically increased the number of seats it holds in parliament but fell far short of expectations.

The president of France’s far-right National Rally claimed historic gains for the party and blamed Mr Macron for “pushing France into uncertainty and instability”.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal leaving a polling booth
French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal leaving a polling booth earlier on Sunday (Alain Jocard, pool via AP)

An unprecedented number of candidates who qualified for the runoff stepped aside to allow an opponent to go head-to-head with the National Rally candidate, increasing the chances of defeating them.

“Tonight, by deliberately taking the responsibility to paralyse our institutions, Emmanuel Macron … is consequently depriving the French people of any responses to their daily problems for many months to come,” Mr Bardella said.

National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen
Far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen answers reporters’ questions after the second round of the legislative election on Sunday (Louise Delmotte/AP)

For 46-year-old Mr Macron’s centrists, the legislative elections have turned into a fiasco. He stunned France, and many in his own government, by dissolving parliament’s lower house, the National Assembly, after the far right surged in French voting for the European elections.

Mr Macron argued that sending voters back to the ballot boxes would provide France with “clarification”.

The president was gambling that with France’s fate in their hands, voters might shift from the far right and left and return to mainstream parties closer to the centre – where Mr Macron found much of the support that won him the presidency in 2017 and again in 2022. That, he hoped, would fortify his presidency for his remaining three years in office.

But rather than rally behind him, millions of voters on both the left and right of France’s increasingly polarised political landscape seized on his surprise decision as an opportunity to vent their anger and possibly sideline Mr Macron, by saddling him with a parliament that could now largely be filled with politicians hostile both to him and, in particular, his pro-business policies.

A hung parliament with no single bloc coming close to getting the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority in the National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers, would be unknown territory for modern France and usher in political turmoil.

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