French far right ahead in 1st round of snap elections. Here’s how runoff works and what comes next

On July 7, French voters will face a crucial choice in the second round of snap parliamentary election. The runoff could result in France’s first far right government since World War II Nazi occupation, or no majority at all.

The official results indicate that Marine Le Pen’s nationalist, anti-immigration party National Rally has a good shot at winning a majority for the first ever in the lower chamber of parliament. However, the outcome is still uncertain due to the complex voting system.

What happened?

The National Rally, along with its allies, won the first round of voting on Sunday. They received around one third of the vote. The New Popular Front, a coalition of center-left, hard-left and green forces, came in second place, ahead President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance.


Dutzende of candidates, who received at least 50% of the votes on Sunday, were declared elected. All other races will be decided in a second round on June 7, which will feature two or three of the top candidates.

The National Rally is expected to win the majority of seats in the National Assembly but it’s not clear if it will receive an absolute majority.

The French voting system does not reflect the support of a political party at large. Legislators in France are elected by districts.

What’s next?

Rivals of the National Rally are frantically trying to prevent it from gaining an absolute majority.

The coalition of the left said that it would withdraw candidates from districts in which they placed third in order to support candidates who are opposed to the extreme right. Macron’s centrist coalition also announced that some of its candidates will step down before runoff in order to try and block the National Rally.

This tactic was successful in the past when Le Pen and his predecessor, National Front, were viewed as political pariahs by many. Le Pen’s Party has a wide and deep base of support in the entire country.

Why is the far-right rising?

Despite France’s position as a major diplomatic and military power and its large economy, many French voters struggle with high inflation and low wages. They also feel left behind by the globalization.

Le Pen’s Party, which blames immigration as the cause of many France’s problems has built a national support network. This is especially true in small towns and rural communities who see Macron and Paris’ political class out of touch.

What’s cohabitation?

If the National Rally, or any other political force other than his centrist coalition, gains a majority in parliament, Macron is forced to name a new prime minister who belongs to this new majority.

In a “cohabitation” situation, as it is called in France, the government will implement policies that are different from the plan of the president.

Three cohabitations have taken place in France’s modern republic, the most recent being under President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. This lasted from 1997-2002.

The Prime Minister is responsible to the Parliament, leads the Government and introduces Bills.

While the president’s power is diminished at home, he still has some control over foreign affairs, European affairs, and defense, as he is responsible for negotiating and signing international treaties. The president is also in charge of the country’s military and holds the nuclear codes.

Why is it important?

The National Assembly is France’s lower house and the most powerful. The National Assembly has the final word in the legislative process, overriding the Senate which is dominated by conservatives.

Macron’s presidential mandate runs until 2027. He has said that he will not step down prior to the end of this term. A weakened French leader could complicate a number of issues on the global stage.

In previous cohabitations the defense and foreign policy was considered an informal “reserved area” for the president. He could usually find compromises with his prime minister in order to let France speak with a single voice abroad.

But today, the views of both the far right and the leftist alliance in these areas are radically different from Macron’s and could be a source of tension if there were to be any cohabitation.

Jordan Bardella of the far-right, who would become prime minister if he won the majority of seats, stated that he intended to “be a cohabitation Prime Minister who respects the Constitution and the role of the President of Republic but is uncompromising in the policies we implement.”

Bardella stated that he, as prime minister, would not send French troops to Ukraine – a possibility Macron had not ruled out. Bardella said that he would also refuse French deliveries for long-range missiles, and other weapons capable of hitting targets in Russia.

What happens if the majority is not reached?

Even if the group doesn’t have a majority, the president can appoint a premier from that group. This was the case for Macron’s own centrist coalition since 2022.

The National Rally has already stated that it will reject this option because it could lead to the overthrow of a far-right regime through a vote of no confidence if other parties come together.

The president could attempt to form a broad alliance from the left and the right. This option sounds unlikely given the divergent political views.

A “government of experts”, unaffiliated to political parties, would also be an option. However, this would require acceptance by the majority in the National Assembly. This government would probably deal with the day-today issues rather than implement major reforms.

Macron’s centrist cabinet could continue to have a transitional administration pending any further decisions if political talks drag on too long during the summer holidays or between July 26 and August 11 for the Olympics in Paris.