Home Editor's Picks Leftist alliance leads French election, no absolute majority, initial estimates show

Leftist alliance leads French election, no absolute majority, initial estimates show

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By Juliette Jabkhiro, Layli Foroudi and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) -France was on course for a hung parliament in Sunday’s election, with a leftist alliance unexpectedly taking the top spot ahead of the far right, in a major upset that was set to bar Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) from running the government.

The result would mark a huge setback for the far right, which opinion surveys ahead of the vote had projected would win comfortably, before the left and centrist alliances cooperated by pulling scores of candidates from three-way races to build a unified anti-RN vote.

The RN was set to come third, according to pollsters’ projections based on early results.

In his first reaction, its leader Jordan Bardella called the cooperation between anti-RN forces, known as the “republican front” a “disgraceful alliance” that he said would paralyze France.

The election will leave parliament divided in three big groups with hugely different platforms and no tradition at all of working together.

The vote was also a humiliation for President Emmanuel Macron, who called the snap election after his ticket was trounced in European Parliament elections last month.

The leftist alliance, which gathers the hard left, the Socialists and Greens, who have long been at odds with each other, was forecast to win between 172 and 215 seats out of 577, according to the pollsters’ projections.

These projections are usually reliable.

Cries of joy and tears of relief broke out at the leftist alliance’s gathering in Paris when the estimates were announced. At the Greens’ headquarters activists screamed in joy, embracing each other.

“I’m relieved. As a French-Moroccan, a doctor, an ecologist activist, what the far right was proposing to do as a government was craziness,” said 34-year-old Hafsah Hachad.

There was stunned silence, clenched jaws and tears at the RN party headquarters, as young party members checked their phones.

Macron’s centrist alliance, which he founded to underpin his first presidential run in 2017, was projected to be narrowly second with 150-180 seats.

The RN was seen getting 115 to 155 seats.

LEFTWING GOVERNMENT?

A key question will now be whether the awkward New Popular Front (NPF) alliance can agree on what course to take.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI), ruled out a broad coalition of parties of different stripes and said Macron had a duty to call on the leftist alliance to rule.

However, the NPF is well short of the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority.

The constitution does not oblige Macron to ask it to form a government, though that would be the usual course of action as it is the biggest group in parliament.

In Macron’s entourage, there was no indication of his next move.

“The question we’re going to have to ask ourselves tonight and in the coming days is: which coalition is capable of reaching the 289 seats to govern?”, one person close to him told Reuters.

The first official results were expected later on Sunday, with the votes from most, if not all, constituencies likely to be in by the end of the day or the early hours of Monday.

Voters have punished Macron and his ruling alliance for a cost of living crisis and failing public services, as well as over immigration and security.

Le Pen and her party tapped into those grievances, spreading their appeal way beyond their traditional strongholds along the Mediterranean coast and in the country’s northern rust belt, but their gains compared with previous elections proved insufficient to win power.

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