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Far-right in lead in French election after first round of voting

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The far-right National Rally is on course to top the poll following the first round of French parliamentary elections, according to projections published the moment voting ended at 20:00. The initial estimate put the party of Marine Le Pen on 34%, with the left-wing New Popular Front on 28%. President Macron’s Ensemble alliance was estimated to be on 20% and the Republicans on 10%.

Some of those figures varied by a single percentage point as the night wore on but it’s thought the National Rally is in the lead in between 230 and 280 seats, falling short of an absolute majority of the 577 constituencies. However, the election outcome will depend on a second round of voting on Sunday 7 July, to be held in all constituencies where no candidate received at least 50% of the vote in the first round.

The National Rally’s leader, Marine Le Pen, warned jubilant supporters that “nothing is yet decided and the second round will be important … the opportunity to give Jordan Bardella an absolute majority”. Her protégé Bardella would become Prime Minister in those circumstances but said during the election campaign that nothing less would do.

In his reaction to the projected vote share, Jordan Bardella said the choice was now clear between “an alliance of the worst” -the New Popular Front- and the “final patriotic rampart” of the National Rally.

For the New Popular Front, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of France Unbowed, said the choice is indeed between his alliance and the party of Le Pen and Bardella. He too said only an absolute majority would do and that in most seats, the New Popular Front would be in a duel with the National Rally in the second round. Those of his candidates who had cleared the 12.5% threshold to stay in the race but had only come third would be told to stand down so that the National Rally would face only a single opponent.

“France is at stake”, he said, “the Republic is at stake”, though much of his scorn was for Emmanuel Macron. He said the President had tried to “subvert democracy through a choice no-one wanted between the far-right and himself”. But what he called that “downward looking authority” had been undone by the highest turnout in 40 years, estimated at 67.5%.

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President Macron’s Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, is certain to be replaced but he still hopes that his successor will not be Jordan Bardella. “The far-right is currently climbing the steps to power”, he said but there is “a moral duty” to stop it.

He said Ensemble would also withdraw its third placed candidates from the second round and urged citizens to “vote for the candidates that defend the Republic” on Sunday 7 July.

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