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What does the French left-wing alliance’s shock election win mean for Europe?

People gather at the Republique plaza after the second round of the legislative election, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Paris.
People gather at the Republique plaza after the second round of the legislative election, Sunday, July 7, 2024, in Paris. Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Mared Gwyn Jonesvideo by Amandine Hess
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Experts say the anti-far-right bulwark has safeguarded the European bloc from a political shock.

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When the exit poll revealed a surprise victory for France’s left-wing alliance in Sunday’s snap legislative poll, there were sighs of relief in many corners of Europe.

Centrists had feared that the far-right’s potential emergence into government in France - the European Union’s second most powerful economy - would sow economic and political instability and undermine the bloc’s stalwart support to Ukraine.

But with a hung parliament and no clear route to a governing coalition, the political gridlock in Paris still casts uncertainty over France’s ability to wield its influence in Brussels.

Final results on Monday morning put the left-wing New Popular Front alliance on 182 of the 577 seats in the French National Assembly, President Macron's centrist alliance on 168 seats, and the far-right National Rally on 143.

It means a potential outcome is a left-leaning government sharing power with centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

Experts say that despite losing seats in the National Assembly, Macron has emerged with his political credibility in tact: "He will be less weakened than we had expected and France will continue to be able to exercise its international role with a certain panache, as it has done until now," Federico Santopinto, director at French think tank IRIS, told Euronews.

A strong government in Paris is considered essential pillar for EU stability. With France now in unchartered political territory and weighed by uncertainty over its future governing forces, analysts call for a "pragmatic" solution that allows France to deliver on pressing priorities while "staving off" the threat of the far right.

For Olivia Lazard, a fellow at think tank Carnegie Europe, the far-right's unexpected second-round defeat means Macron will "retain credibility" while France avoids "recoiling into some kind of sovereignist and nationalist narrative which obviously runs against Europe."

"France at the moment is still one of the key bastions in Europe against the rise of the radical right, and against the influence of Russia," Lazard told Euronews' Radio Schuman. "It means that Europe will stay safe for a relative amount of time still when it comes to defence issues."

‘Relief’ in Kyiv

A second-round win for the far-right National Rally, which topped the first round of the vote a week ago, would have come as a further threat to EU support to Ukraine.

Marine Le Pen's party has historical ties to Russia and had vowed to rein in French aid to Ukraine. The party was controversially loaned €9 million from a Russian bank in 2014, despite Moscow being sanctioned over the illegal occupation of Crimea.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was among the first of the EU’s 27 leaders to respond to the exit poll: “In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief,” Tusk said on social media platform X. “Enough to be happy in Warsaw.”

European leaders - particularly on the eastern flank - feared that President Macron’s hand in foreign policy would be weakened if he had been forced into a power-sharing arrangement with a far-right government, and that this would in turn have diluted France’s financial and military support to Kyiv.

Le Pen’s party had notably shifted its stance on the war in the run-up to June’s European elections, saying it would continue to provide defence aid but would not send long-range missiles or other weapons that would allow Ukraine to strike Russian territory.

But the leader of the far-left France Unbowed party (LFI) - part of the victorious left-wing New Popular Front Alliance - has also in the past been accused of adopting a sympathetic stance towards Russia.

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Jean-Luc Mélenchon - an advocate of France's military non-alignment - said in February that it was "high time to negotiate peace in Ukraine with mutual security clauses" and has consistently opposed sending sophisticated weaponry to Kyiv.

Support for Ukraine is one of the issues that could fracture the unity of the New Popular Front, which merges many types of socialism from the soft to the hard left.

Far-left La France Insoumise - LFI - (France Unbowed) founder Jean-Luc Melenchon, delivers his speech after the second round of the legislative elections Sunday, July 7, 2024
Far-left La France Insoumise - LFI - (France Unbowed) founder Jean-Luc Melenchon, delivers his speech after the second round of the legislative elections Sunday, July 7, 2024 AP Photo

For Laetitia Langlois, a scholar at the University of Angers, the centre-left Socialist Party (PS) and its leader Raphaël Glucksmann could play an important role in enabling a pro-Ukrainian coalition.

At 77 seats, Mélenchon's LFI party was the most voted among the left-wing New Popular Front. The more centre-left, moderate Socialist Party - in which Raphaël Glucksmann, a member of the European Parliament, belongs - and its allies secured 59 seats.

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"Raphaël Glucksmann, who is obviously, as we know, very supportive of Ukraine, will try to perhaps temper the speeches of France Unbowed," Langlois explained. "I think that there is a consensus inside the country around support for Ukraine and defending the values ​​of democracy against an aggressive and tyrannical country."

"I think it would be difficult, even for France Unbowed, to hold a position within a government that would call into question France's support for Ukraine as it currently stands," she added.

Climate defenders breath sigh of relief

The defeat of the National Rally has also been welcomed by defenders of the European Green Deal.

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella, who had hoped to clinch the role of French prime minister, had previously called on the French government to "renounce" the Green Deal and attacked what he has described as "punitive" EU environmental policies.

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The left-wing alliance has, on the other hand, called for a climate plan aimed at carbon neutrality by 2050 and wants France to become a powerhouse in renewable energies such as offshore wind and hydroelectric power.

"This French election is a wake-up call for European leaders. It's time to take action to tackle deindustrialisation, under-investment and households' energy bills, which have risen due to a costly dependence on imports of gas, oil and coal," said Neil Makaroff, director of the European think-tank Strategic Perspectives.

The National Rally and its European allies had vowed to slam the breaks on the European Green Deal ahead of the European elections. The position was also adopted by many centre-right forces in Europe, sparking widespread criticism that traditional Conservatives were allowing far-right forces to march into the mainstream.

But yet again, experts warn Macron's weakened hand could have negative implications for the fight against climate change.

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French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, 27 June 2024
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, 27 June 2024AP Photo

"The results are good news for France’s commitment to climate action at home, provided the Parliament can develop a stronger culture of coalition," Lola Vallejo, Climate Special Advisor at the French think-tank IDDRI, said.

"Macron may continue to personally weigh in strongly on international climate and finance affairs, as he often has, but his standing is more uncertain after this political sequence that closely watched political sequence globally."

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