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Left coalition scores sensational victory in French election

THE LEFT coalition was preparing for power today after it scored a sensational victory in Sunday’s second round of voting for the French National Assembly.

The newly established New Popular Front coalition won 180 seats, ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s business-centred Renaissance alliance, with more than 160 seats. 

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (NR) were restricted to third place, although their more than 140 seats was still way ahead of the party’s previous best showing of 89 seats in 2022.

All three main blocs fell far short of the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

The turnout in the election was a record 66 per cent of the electorate.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal offered his resignation to President Macron today but Mr Macron turned the offer down and asked him to stay in charge temporarily “to ensure the stability of the country.”

Mr Attal made clear on Sunday that he had disagreed with President Macron’s decision to call the snap elections but he has agreed to stay on in post for the time being.

The far-right NR looked set to win the election following the European Parliament election results — which prompted the snap election — and after coming first in the first round held a week ago.

Although not winning power the NR will be the largest single group in the National Assembly.

Jean Pisani-Ferry, President Macron’s former campaign director of programme, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that many French voters opted for the NR “because they felt left out.”

But he added: “Their fellow citizens did not want the NR to get an absolute majority.”

France Team Leader at 350.org Fanny Petitbon said: “Against all odds, the left-wing coalition, supported by a massive citizen mobilisation throughout the country, has succeeded in establishing itself as a real alternative to the far-right in less than a month. 

“The hope generated by this new coalition must now be translated into concrete policies and measures to urgently address French people’s main concerns.” 

The NPF’s leaders immediately pushed President Macron to give them the first chance to form a government and propose a prime minister. 

The coalition has pledged to roll back many of Mr Macron’s headline reforms, increase public spending, and take a tougher line against Israel because of its war against the Palestinians in Gaza. 

French Communist Party national secretary Fabien Roussel insisted the left was ready to govern. 

Mr Roussel said the left had a big task ahead of “responding to the aspirations of the French.”

He added that a priority would be to “immediately put the repeal of retirement at 64 on the agenda.”

Mr Macron’s controversial flagship policy to raise France’s retirement age led to months of major protests across the country. The policy was eventually forced through into law by Mr Macron’s coalition as they made use of a little-utilised parliamentary device.

Leader of the left-wing French Unbowed Party Jean-Luc Melenchon particularly praised French voters between the ages of 18 and 24 for turning out in large numbers to support the winning coalition.

He added: “I also have warm thoughts for the working-class neighbourhoods who mobilised en masse. They saved the Republic.”

He promised that one of the priorities of a new left-wing government would be to “increase the minimum wage: by decree.”

But it’s not clear, even among the left, who could lead the government. 

Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist Party, which was also part of the left-wing coalition said: “We need someone who offers consensus.”

President Macron has warned that the left’s economic programme of many tens of billions of euros in public spending, partly financed by taxes on wealth and hikes for high earners, could be ruinous for France.

Leading left figures in Britain congratulated the NPF on its unexpected victory.

Communist Party international secretary Kevan Nelson said: “The CP welcomes the success of the NPF in blocking the threatened fascist advance in the National Assembly and in defeating Macron's reckless manoeuvre to prop up his discredited presidency.” 

He added: “Maximum unity of the left and progressive movements will be required to turn back the rising tide of fascism in France and beyond.”

Independent MP for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn posted on the X social media platform that the result in France provided an important lesson: “Don’t concede ground to those who sow division and fear. Build a bold left movement that offers an alternative of inclusion and hope.

“That is how you defeat the far right,” he said.

CND general secretary Kate Hudson told the Morning Star: “The victory for left and progressive forces in France is a real step forward — a blow against far right forces, but it also opens up possibilities for a real politics of peace and justice.”

She added: “We must build alliances and work together across Europe to oppose war and nuclear weapons.”

A hung parliament is unknown territory for modern France.

Despite the uncertainty, supporters on the left cheered in Republique plaza in eastern Paris when the first results came in, with people spontaneously hugging strangers and several minutes of non stop applause.

Marielle Castry, a medical secretary, was on the Metro in Paris when projected results were first announced.

“Everybody had their smartphones and were waiting for the results and then everybody was overjoyed. 

“I had been stressed out since June 9 and the European elections. And now, I feel good. Relieved.”

The new National Assembly will have a smaller proportion of women.

Only 36 per cent of the deputies are women — down 1.3 per cent from 2022. 

The record high still stands at 38.8 per cent in 2017.

The NPF will have the highest percentage of women members with 41.7 per cent.

The right-wing Republicans have the lowest with 30.8 per cent.

The political agreement between the left and centre to block the NR was largely successful.

Many voters decided that keeping the far right from power was more important to them than anything else, backing its opponents in the run-off, even if they weren’t from the political camp they usually support.

But NR leader Ms Le Pen, who is expected to make a fourth run for the French presidency in 2027, said the elections laid the groundwork for “the victory of tomorrow.”

“The reality is that our victory is only deferred,” she added. 

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