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After France's right-wing surge, parties seen scrambling to block a National Rally win

Amaury Cornu | Afp | Getty Images
  • Left-wing and centrist parties in France are scrambling to block the far-right National Rally from winning the ongoing parliamentary election.
  • Figures on Monday showed the National Rally came out on top in the first round of the vote on Sunday.
  • The outcome has prompted discussions of tactical voting and deal-making between centrist and left-wing parties ahead of the second electoral round.

Left-wing and centrist parties in France are scrambling to block the rival National Rally from winning the ongoing parliamentary election, according to analysts, after support for the far-right faction surged in the first electoral round Sunday.

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Figures posted Monday morning by the French Interior Ministry showed that the far-right National Rally (RN) and its allies had secured a combined 33.1% of votes, while the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance won 28% and French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Together bloc garnered 20%.

The outcome of the first round of the election has led to discussions from left-wing and centrist politicians about how to minimize the amount of parliamentary seats secured by the RN in the second round of voting on July 7.

"Our objective is clear: to prevent the National Rally from having an absolute majority in the second round, from dominating the National Assembly and from governing the country with the disastrous project that it has," French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, a Macron ally, wrote on social media platform X late Sunday according to a CNBC translation.

"I say it with the force that the moment demands to each of our voters: not a single vote must go to the National Rally," he added.

Tactical voting in the second round

French parliamentary elections typically take place in two rounds, with parties needing to secure at least 12.5% of votes in a constituency to proceed to the decisive second-round runoff.

"Over half the 577 parliamentary seats, a historically very high number, are expected to go to the second round with lots of tactical voting now likely," Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note Monday.

Politicians from various left-wing and centrist parties have now called for candidates who placed third in races against far-right candidates to pull out of the election, in an effort to merge support in a single concentrated front against the RN.

The ultimate outcome of the election will therefore depend on deal-making between left-wing and centrist parties, Mujtaba Rahman and Anna-Carina Hamker from the Eurasia Group said in a note Sunday.

"All will now depend on a scramble between the left alliance and President Emmanuel Macron's defeated center to make national and local deals to block possible RN victories in the second round next Sunday," they said.

The large amount of seats that still have three candidates in the running means chances are high for the creation of so-called Republican fronts that could help defeat RN candidates who only narrowly won in the first round, Rahman and Hamker added.

Even so, other factors could still hamper ambitions to defeat the far right, they point out, saying voter turnout may be different and tactical voting may not prove as successful as was hoped. 

Three scenarios

Uncertainty about what lies ahead lingers, Pascal Lamy, vice president of the Paris Peace Forum and former director-general of the World Trade Organization, told CNBC on Monday.

"The second round looks extremely uncertain," he said, adding that a lot of three-candidate races are set to be "very close."

Three potential election outcomes remain, Lamy said: a far-right majority in parliament, a hung assembly or a coalition with the far right. He suggested that all three options currently remain on the table.

Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg emphasized the second scenario.

"The most likely outcome remains a hung parliament in which neither the far right nor the united left nor the Macron's centrists can muster a majority. In this case, any (new) government would not get much done," he said Monday.

Correction: Pascal Lamy is a former director-general of the World Trade Organization. An earlier version misspelled the group's name.

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