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France's National Rally dominates election first round


Marine Le Pen looks on as results come out. /CFP
Marine Le Pen looks on as results come out. /CFP

Marine Le Pen looks on as results come out. /CFP

Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) party scored historic gains to win the first round of France's parliamentary election.

Whether the hard right party will have enough representatives to form a government now depends on how effectively opponents can coordinate to concentrate the anti-RN vote.

The RN and allies won 33 percent of the vote, followed by a leftwing bloc with 28 percent and President Emmanuel Macron's centrists with just 20 percent, official results from the interior ministry showed on Monday.

That was a huge setback for Macron who had called the snap election after his ticket was trounced by the RN in European Parliament elections last month.


Second round voting

Leaders of both the leftwing New Popular Front and Macron's Renaissance party made clear on Sunday night they would withdraw their own candidates in hundreds of districts where another candidate was better placed to beat the RN in next Sunday's runoff.

A longtime pariah for many in France, the RN is now closer to power than it has ever been. Le Pen has sought to clean up the image of a party known for racism and antisemitism, a tactic that has worked amid voter anger at Macron, the high cost of living and growing concerns over immigration.

French markets rallied after the RN's support came in slighly below levels predicted by some opinion polls. The party has reigned back some of its populist economic policies such as exempting under-30s from income tax, but remains committed to lowering energy prices without specifying how.

"I think it's a slight 'Well, there were no surprises', so there was a sense of relief there," said Fiona Cincotta, senior markets analyst at City Index.

RN lawmakers on Monday urged center-right politicians in the Republicans (LR) party, which received less than 7 percent of the first-round vote, to withdraw from districts where such a move would work in RN's favour. Some members of the LR party have expressed sympathy with RN, prompting public spats over whether the hard right had now become part of the political mainstream

"If they know they're not going to win, I'm calling on them to stand down and let the national side win," RN lawmaker Laure Lavalette told RTL radio.

For now, the Republicans party, which split ahead of the vote with a small number of its lawmakers joining the RN, has given no indication of its stance.

All candidates who made it through the first round have until Tuesday evening to confirm whether they will go into the second.

France's National Rally dominates election first round

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