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Far-right gains in French elections, raising questions about future support for Ukraine

far-right-gains-in-french-elections,-raising-questions-about-future-support-for-ukraine

Far-right gains in French elections, raising questions about future support for Ukraine

France’s President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with supporters after voting in the first round of parliamentary elections outside a polling station in Le Touquet, northern France, on June 30, 2024. — Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

(PARIS) — The Rassemblement National, France’s main far-right party, made significant strides in the country’s first round of snap legislative elections on Sunday.

Together with its allies, it rallied close to 11 million French voters, totaling 33.2% of the vote, bringing it closer to being able to form a government after next week’s second round of voting.

The snap elections were called only three weeks ago after President Emmanuel Macron’s party suffered a resounding defeat in the European elections. His party placed third yesterday with the left-wing coalition Nouveau Front Populaire in second place, reaching 28% of the vote.

With this historic result, the Rassemblement National is closer than ever before to power. Jordan Bardella, a 28-year-old rising star in the party, would become prime minister if an “absolute majority” — more than half of the 577 seats — is obtained next Sunday by the RN and its allies.

Marine Le Pen, president of the party and three-time presidential candidate, celebrated this victory by attacking President Macron and speaking of the “willingness to turn the page after 7 years of contemptuous and corrosive power.”

Le Pen took over the RN from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has multiple convictions for antisemitic and racist hate speech, and the younger Le Pen has spent the last 12 years trying to change the image of her party.

Final results are far from certain, with more than 500 local elections still to be called to know the full makeup of France’s National Assembly, but a RN “absolute majority” would potentially mean drastic changes in France’s international policy, including support to Ukraine.

Prime minister-hopeful Bardella has said he remains “in favor of continuing logistical and defense equipment support to Ukraine” but added that he had two “red lines” that he would not cross: “the sending of French troops to Ukrainian territory” and “the sending of long-range missiles or military equipment […] which could directly strike Russian cities.”

This would stop long-range SCALP missile deliveries to Kyiv as well as put an end to Macron’s promise to send French military instructors to Ukraine. The question remains whether the level of funding for Ukraine would change under an RN government.

Bardella recently said that Russia was a “multidimensional threat to both France and Europe,” trying to distance himself from the party’s historically pro-Russia stance.

Le Pen had in 2017 traveled to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was said to be watching the current parliamentary elections “very closely.”

Because of the two-round voting system and 577 local elections, exact predictions are complicated, with polling agencies giving very rough estimates.

In some local elections, three or four candidates have made it to the second round, which means the left-wing coalition is now pulling out candidates who arrived in third place, in order to block seats for the far-right.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of radical left La France Insoumise, called on candidates to withdraw if needed: “Not one vote, not one seat more for the RN.”

Although a clear idea of whether or not the RN can form a government will only be known next Sunday, the result has already alarmed many, including minority groups, some of which have said they fear they would be more targeted under a far-right party leading the country.

If the RN fails to obtain an absolute majority, France could face a months-long standstill as no party would be available to successfully vote laws or implement policy. In any case, Macron would remain president until 2027.

Voter turnout soared to a 22-year high on Sunday, with French voters going back to the polls in just six days, for a decisive second round that will shape the country’s future.

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