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France heads to second round showdown between left alliance and far-right

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon and members of the NFP addressing supporters. The left-progressive New Popular Front struck a significant blow to Macron’s centrist neoliberalism, winning over 29 percent of the votes, trailing only 5 points behind Le Pen’s National Rally. Picture: LFI

By Peoples Dispatch

The far-right National Rally is in the lead after the first round of parliamentary elections in France. Marine Le Pen’s party and its allies secured close to 34 percent of the votes, largely aligning with pre-election polls.

The New Popular Front (Nouveau Front Populaire, NFP), a left-progressive alliance formed after the snap elections were announced by President Emmanuel Macron earlier in June, recorded the second-largest share of votes, approximately 29 percent. Macron’s liberal coalition lagged far behind at 21 percent.

The election on Sunday, June 30, was marked by the highest turnout since the late 1980s, according to analysts. The second round will be held on July 7, where run-offs between two or more candidates will determine who will represent constituencies without a clear winner in the first round.

To win in the first round, a candidate must secure over 50 percent of the votes cast, representing at least 25 percent of registered voters. In these elections, over 60 candidates were elected in the first round: 2 from Macron’s list, 21 from the NFP, and as many as 38 from the National Rally.

More than 500 seats remain to be filled in the second round, giving the left another chance to minimize the gap between them and the National Rally. The campaign is expected to become even more intense in the coming week, and protests denouncing the rise of the far-right have already begun.

Demonstrations protesting the rise of the far-right were reported in Strasbourg, Lille, and Paris, among other cities. In Paris, candidates and activists of France Unbowed (La France Insoumise) who are leading the NFP alliance, addressed the crowd, urging them to continue mobilizing in the coming days. “Tonight’s mood is not one of joy or sadness, but of struggle,” said Manuel Bompard, national coordinator of France Unbowed.

The impressive performance of NFP in these elections was seen as a triumph against the neoliberal, centrist policies of Macron which over the past several years have sparked massive street protests.

The New Popular Front brings together the main left and progressive parties in French politics. This ranges from more radical forces like the Communist Party and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed, to establishment parties like the Socialists and Greens.

They have united around a progressive platform that stands in distinction to both the far right and Macron and includes lowering the retirement age, guaranteeing the right to housing for all, and curbing rising food and energy prices. They also have pledged to support the Palestinian cause and a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

At the rally on Sunday night in Paris, Mélenchon declared, “We are not here just to stand in the way, to stand up to anyone or to be against it. We are here because we want to change everything!”

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch