Monday, June 27, 2022
HomePoliticsFrom French fringe to mainstream: Far-right surges in election shock

From French fringe to mainstream: Far-right surges in election shock

Macron’s centrist Ensemble grouping won the most seats with 245 but fell 44 short of an absolute majority, leaving it unable to pass laws without the help of other parties. Macron won reelection as president against Le Pen in April but is now shorn of his legislative authority.

“The rout of the presidential party is total,” declared anti-capitalist firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who leads the coalition of left-wing parties that won a remarkable 149 seats to become the largest opposition grouping. He added that the public had rejected what he called “Macronisme.”

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the results, which were finalized Monday morning, a “democratic shock.” For once few would disagree with Le Pen, the far-right’s divisive figurehead, who called the election a “seismic event.”

“It is shocking. There was always an expectation somehow the National Rally would not get itself into a position of power — this is an unprecedented situation,” said Marta Lorimer, an expert in far-right European politics at the London School of Economics.

“This is still a far-right party, let’s not kid ourselves,” she added.

Not since 1986, when the electoral rules were briefly changed, has a far-right party elected members of Parliament on this scale. Even then the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose toxic political legacy and association with Holocaust denial Marine has worked hard to shed, won just 36 seats.

That result outraged many and was enough to end a short-lived experiment with proportional representation, whereby parties’ vote share translates more directly into the number of seats they win. The current voting system was specifically designed to stop extremists gaining power — something it has now failed to achieve.

“Le Pen hasn’t come out of nowhere, she’s been around for a while — but they’ve never been able to translate that into parliamentary strength,” said Rainbow Murray, a professor in French politics at Queen Mary University in London.

“There’s been a pretty heavy collapse of the mainstream and that’s made it more possible for the far-right to creep in,” she added.

Though he promised to block the rise of the far-right, Macron has presided over its surge.

Some members of his party were criticized ahead of the election for suggesting that a vote for the left-wing alliance was in some cases worse than voting for Le Pen’s radical nationalists — one pollster argued that ultimately the reluctance of left and liberal voters to back each other’s candidates did help the far-right gain seats.

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