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French parties scramble to strike second-round alliances after National Rally tops first-round results

Over 300 constituencies could face three-way run-offs unless candidates withdraw by 6pm tomorrow

FRENCH non-fascist parties are scrambling to strike deals to put up just one candidate against the National Rally in next weekend’s election, after it topped polls in the first round.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right party received 9,374,454 votes, or 29.24 per cent, according to official figures, slightly less than the 34 per cent predicted in exit polls. It enters the second round in 485 of France’s 577 parliamentary seats, more than any other party.

Yet it was only just ahead of the left-wing New Popular Front’s 8,974,463 votes (27.99 per cent). The left alliance has qualified for 446 run-offs, but must now determine how many to stand in.

Candidates receiving over 12.5 per cent of the registered vote enter the second round regardless of whether they made the top two. Ordinarily few constituencies see three candidates pass this threshold, but this time more than 300 did.

Seventy-six constituencies will not proceed to a second round as their winning candidate bagged over half the vote — almost all for National Rally (39) or the Popular Front (32).

Candidates can withdraw up to 6pm tomorrow, with the Popular Front indicating it would advise those placed third in round one to leave the field to concentrate the anti-fascist vote.

But while President Emmanuel Macron called for a “Republican alliance” on similar grounds, party officials hinted this would not include candidates from the largest party within the Popular Front — Jean-Luc Melenchon’s France Unbowed. Mr Macron’s electoral bloc has qualified in 319 constituencies.

His former prime minister Edouard Philippe said no second-round votes should go either to National Rally or France Unbowed, while Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, slammed Mr Melenchon’s socialist party as “a danger to the nation.”

Marine Tondelier of the Green Party, which along with France Unbowed, the Communist Party and Socialist Party forms the Popular Front, slammed Mr Le Maire’s “cowardly and privileged” attitude, saying it would open the door to a far-right prime minister in a week’s time.

On the right, National Rally called for candidates of the traditional centre-right Republicans, who have split over whether to ally with Ms Le Pen, to withdraw to give it a clear run against the left.

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