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National Rally Leads in France’s Election First Round

National Rally Leads in France’s Election First Round

The National Rally (RN) has won 33% of the votes in the first round of France’s snap general election. The left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance got 28%, and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Together bloc received 21%.

It’s hard to predict how many seats each party will get because it depends on individual constituency results. While pollsters provide estimates, these are not officially approved by France’s polling watchdog.

The final round of voting is on July 7. This could result in the far-right RN gaining control of the government for the first time in history.

How the Two-Round System Works

To win a seat in the National Assembly in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50% of the votes and at least 25% of registered voters’ support. This is rare, though the high turnout in 2024 saw 80 candidates winning outright.

If no one meets these criteria, the top two candidates, plus anyone else with at least 12.5% of the vote, move to the second round. The candidate with the most votes in the second round wins.

The two-round system tends to favour larger parties. For example, with 65% voter turnout, a party needs nearly 20% of eligible voters’ support to advance. Historically, lower turnouts mean fewer multi-candidate contests.

In 2012, with 57% turnout, there were 34 three-way runoffs. By 2017, with 49% turnout, there was only one, and in 2022, there were eight with a 47% turnout.

The 2024 election saw the highest turnout since the 1980s and fewer candidates—4,011 compared to 6,290 in 2022—from three main groups (left, center, and far-right). This has led to a record number of three-way contests.

With 67% voter turnout, up to 306 constituencies could see three-way races in the second round, representing half of the assembly seats.

Usually, if the RN seems likely to win in a three-way race, the second and third-placed parties negotiate to decide who will drop out to block the RN. This strategy requires cooperation from mainstream parties and willingness from voters to support a different candidate to stop RN.

However, this strategy is weakening, with voters less willing to support parties they don’t fully agree with. In 2022, the RN won a record 89 seats.

France’s Current Election Outlook

The left-green NFP alliance, led by radical left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has promised to withdraw its candidates in constituencies where the RN is in first place and an NFP candidate is in third. Macron’s camp has been less clear about its strategy, calling both rival camps “extreme.”

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal urged third-placed candidates to step aside to block RN, saying, “Not one single vote must go to the National Rally.” However, some candidates from Macron’s coalition might not withdraw when facing an LFI candidate.

Voter willingness to block RN varies. An Ipsos poll found 87% of NFP voters ready to vote against RN, compared to 62% of Together voters. Another poll by Odoxa showed that fewer voters (41%) were willing to block RN than to block NFP (47%) or Together (44%).

In summary, the situation remains uncertain, with outcomes depending on the candidates in the second round and how much parties cooperate. Up to half the assembly seats could be decided in three-way contests, making tactical voting by the public crucial.


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