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Riots on the streets, mainstreaming of Antifa, Macron-left tactical alliance to defeat Marine Le Pen and more: French elections explained

NPF has won the largest share of seats and secured 182 seats. However, the leftist group fell far short of the coveted 289 seats, the halfway mark in the 577-member National Assembly.

The snap elections in France have resulted in a surprise win for the hurriedly stitched-together leftist umbrella alliance, the National Popular Front (NPF). According to a CNN report, NPF has won the largest share of seats and secured 182 seats. However, the leftist group fell far short of the coveted 289 seats, the halfway mark in the 577-member National Assembly. President Macron’s Centrist Ensemble Alliance came in second place, winning 163 seats. In a shocking reversal of the first-round victory for the resurgent conservative bloc, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and allies won 143 seats.

(Image Source – Le Monde)
(Election results across France and its oversees territories, Image Source – Le Monde)

Despite the shock victory for the left supported by them, Antifa extremists have carried out large-scale violence in several prominent areas and streets in France, especially in Paris. Hordes of Antifascist group (Antifa) – Jeune Garde (“Young Guard”), leftist, and pro-Palestine demonstrators carried out acts of vandalism, rioting, and arson. They clashed with riot Police in several areas to celebrate NPF’s victory, and to celebrate the shocking upset for the National Rally and its allies which was earlier projected to take the lead in the National assembly.

Reportedly, many ‘victory gatherings’ by NPF supporters saw more Palestinian flags than French flags with the mob chanting Pro-Palestinian slogans. The celebrating mobs also ransacked and defaced several iconic places with Antifa graffiti in Paris.

Extremist groups in France carry out violence in garb of protecting democracy, the constitution, and rights of the minorities

It is pertinent to note that the Antifa group ‘Young Guard’ and leftist mobs had earlier threatened to carry out large-scale violence and rioting if the conservative parties won the snap elections. 

Hours before the results were announced, in anticipation of left-wing violence following a win for National Rally and its allies, several high street stores in Paris and elsewhere were seen boarding up their stores with wooden, plywood, or metal frames to protect their shops from theft and vandalism. However, as per reports, the extremist groups carried out violence throughout the week, and post-election verdicts. Ironically, the left-wing violence continued under the garb of ‘protests’ to “safeguard” virtues like minority rights, democratic values, the constitution, and the country, France, from conservatives that were gaining unparalleled popular support.

Macron’s tactic alliance with Leftist bloc holds the “dam” against Marine Le Pen’s imminent victory 

French President Emanuel Macron had been urging the voters to reject the conservative forces ever since he called a snap election in the country. During the three-week campaign, he focused his attacks against the political extremes, particularly the right/conservative. Macron went further to claim that the conservative alliance could set France on a path to civil war. On Wednesday (26th June), the Macron government banned multiple extreme right and radical Muslim groups including a group called Jonas Paris, which it said claims to support France’s Muslim community but instead promotes violence, hate, and discrimination toward non-Muslims, women, and LGBTQ+ people.

Despite the divided yet highly rhetorical election campaign by centrist and leftist blocs against Marine Le Pen’s National Rally-led conservative force, the latter won big in the first round. Across France, 76 candidates secured seats in the first round, including 39 from Le Pen’s National Rally, 32 from the leftist New Popular Front alliance, and two candidates from Macron’s centrist list.

Notably, National Assembly elections in France are held in two rounds. After the conservative bloc secured nearly 1/3rd of all the votes polled and became the largest group in the first round, a major victory for the National Rally-led conservative alliance was projected as an imminent outcome. Sensing the threat from Le Pen’s victory in the first round, Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance reportedly extended tactic alliance to the leftist bloc, NPF. 

Incidentally, Macron helped the left in achieving the Front républicain – French phenomenon when voters united forces to defeat the conservative bloc. Immediately after the announcement of the results of the first round on 30th June, France Unbowed founder Jean-Luc Mélenchon announced that the “NFP had a plan” – building a “front” or “dam” against the conservative bloc which was largely followed by Macron’s alliance as well. 

As per French media, both the centrist and leftist alliances issued appeals to their voter base to elect better-placed political rivals so that they could keep the National Rally out of power. According to a report in Le Monde, around 218 candidates who made it to the second round, didn’t compete in the second round. These included around 130 candidates from the left alliance and 82 from the Macron-led centrist alliance Ensemble. Reportedly, this included several Cabinet Ministers who abandoned the race to stop National Rally’s victory. 

During the campaign trail, Macron’s party leader and French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said, “I need to prevent the National Rally from achieving an absolute majority in the National Assembly because it would be — and I say it from the bottom of my gut — it would be terrible for the country and the French.” 

Ironically, while Macron claimed to be against extremists on both sides of the political spectrum, his party ended up helping the ultra-left, Antifa, and extremist elements on many seats. 

Evidently in the Avignon constituency, Antifa leader Raphaël Arnault defeated the outgoing National Rally MP Catherine Jaouen with the help of a tactic alliance. Arnault is an S-listed candidate, a classification which is reportedly used for persons who could be a security threat to the nation and are kept under strict watch. He is the founder and spokesperson for the anti-fascist movement “La Jeune Garde” which is notorious for violent and antisemitic attacks in recent years.

Arnault was the controversial candidate from La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) and the New Popular Front in the constituency of Avignon. Philippe Pascal, a candidate supported by the rest of the left and who came third with 18.27% of the vote, extended his support to the Antifa leader.

‘Our victory has been merely delayed’: National Rally leader Marine Le Pen

Despite getting fewer seats than expected, the conservative party has won the largest number of seats in its history. Party president Jordan Bardella slammed the Republican Front as a “disgraceful alliance” that was cooked up behind closed doors to keep his party from power. 

The RN’s 28-year-old leader, Bardella said that France had been thrown into “uncertainty and instability.” 

As for Marine Le Pen, she will be running again as the National Rally presidential candidate in the 2027 elections. It has only taken her party closer than ever to the president’s office. She said, “Our victory has been merely delayed.” 

Speaking to his supporters near Stalingrad Square, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of France Unbowed, said that the results came as a “huge relief for the overwhelming majority of people in our country.” He called upon Macron to form the government with the support of the left bloc as they are “ready to govern”. 

However, Macron and his aides have asserted that they will be “waiting for the National Assembly to organise itself” before the President makes any decisions as to who he’ll appoint as the country’s next prime minister.

Political instability in France could lead to an economic downturn and the spread of radical extremism

While the results of the snap elections have given a hung assembly, France can’t call a new election for at least another year. However, after becoming the largest bloc, leftist group, NPF could start implementing its ‘economic policy’ which could throw France behind by several years, if not decades.  

Notably, the left bloc was to do away with President Macron’s pro-business reforms. It promised to raise the minimum wage, scrap Macron’s pension reform, lower the retirement age, and put a price cap on basic goods to fight France’s worsening cost-of-living crisis. Incidentally, their plan would be financed by overhauling the tax system in France. This will include reinstating the wealth tax that was abolished by President Macron. Additionally, they would levy a windfall tax on corporations to pay for an increase in social spending. 

The leftist agenda, however, could upset high-networth individuals, forcing them to leave the country to avoid high tax rates. 

Meanwhile, on the foreign policy front, the NPF has pledged to “immediately recognize” a Palestinian state, and push for a cease-fire in Gaza. 

The NPF will double down against Marine Le Pen and placate its Antifa and leftist vote bank 

The NPF alliance will also double down against Marine Le Pen who was gaining popular support for her anti-immigration stance. Incidentally, she had also promised to raise consumer spending power, slash immigration, and take a tougher line on European Union rules. She also wanted to boost police powers and curtail the rights of French citizens with dual nationality to work in some defense, security, and nuclear industry jobs.

However, her opposition succeeded in stopping her from what they believed she could have done to curtail the civil liberties of several ethnic groups and build hostility to France’s Muslims. According to reports, Le Pen recently spoke about a potential ban on the Muslim headscarf. 

She said that she is still in favour of banning the headscarf in public but that the official decision warrants “presidential authority.” She said, “There are a number of issues regarding Islamist ideologies and the headscarf is only one of them.” 

Already, the leftist with the support of the centrist bloc has gained huge success in mainstreaming leftist and Pro-Palestine extremists as well as bolstering the Antifa group, Young Guard. 

Chaos, in-fighting between NPF and possible “Cohabitation” phase in France

It is pertinent to note that the New Popular Front (NFP) did not exist a month ago. While it has become the largest political front, it has several contradictions and infighting among the alliance partners including on key issues of the Prime Ministerial post. 

Notably, the NPF coalition includes several political parties namely the far-left France Unbowed party; the more moderate Socialist Party; the green Ecologist Party; the French Communist Party; the center-left Place Publique, and other small parties. It was formed just a few days after President Macron called a snap parliamentary election.

Regarding the PM post, NPF leader Raphael Glucksmann publicly said that he does not want the divisive NPF leader and founder of the largest party in the bloc, France Unbowed, Juan Mélenchon in the role. Incidentally, he himself has ruled out running for the post but media reports have included him in the race. 

Similarly, Greens leader Marine Tondelier, herself a strong performer throughout the campaign, has also said Mélenchon will not be in the running.

Apart from the PM post, the NFP alliance partners have a range of issues and insurmountable disputes regarding governance. 

It is pertinent to note that France could be heading towards a phase known as “Cohabitation” in France when the President and Prime Minister hail from different parties/alliance blocs. Pertinently, while calling for snap elections, Macron had ruled out the possibility of stepping down from the presidential post before his term ends in 2027, which means he will continue to remain the French President for the next three years when his second and final tenure ends.   

Evidently, the National Assembly is more powerful in France on issues of legislation. During the period of ‘Cohabitation’, the President enjoys power over issues like Foreign Policy, defense, and issues concerning European Union, however, he has no or lesser power on domestic issues. However, leaders from Macron’s party have repeatedly said that they would refuse to work with France Unbowed, saying it is just as extreme — and therefore as unfit to govern — as the National Rally. 

Since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, France has seen a period of cohabitation thrice. Once during socialist president François Mitterrand, between 1986 and 1988. Then again between 1993 and 1995. The third time it happened under President Jacques Chirac between 1997 and 2002. But on all three occasions, the right or the left had an absolute majority in the Assembly, unlike this time. 

France which had been known for leading Europe is heading towards not just political instability but also a major upheaval in its economic and social order with fissures and conflict between the growing extremist groups leading to more protesting and rioting. Amidst concern about rising extremism and violence in Europe, France could end up becoming the den for radical elements under the regime of a pro-immigration leftist bloc. 

While the rising Right groups in Europe have taken a tougher stance against immigration of criminal elements, France which had been marred by radical attacks, and terror threats at its major centers, could see increased instances of such attacks including blasphemy-related Charlie Hebdo like cases and increased censorship on Freedom of Speech. Additionally, the P5 member of the UN could go insular during the period of “Cohabitation” and divided Parliament, leading to the diminishing stature of the country on the global stage. 

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Paurush Gupta
Paurush Gupta
Proud Bhartiya, Hindu, Karma believer. Accidental Journalist who loves to read and write. Keen observer of National Politics and Geopolitics. Cinephile.

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