The National Rally came well ahead on Sunday in the first round of historic legislative elections which could open the doors of power to the far right for the first time since the Second World War.

With 34-34.2% of the vote, the party of Jordan Bardella and Marine Le Pen and its allies are ahead of the New Popular Front bringing together the left, which obtains 28.1-29.1%, far ahead of Emmanuel Macron's camp. at 20.3-21.5%, during this vote marked by a sharp increase in participation, according to estimates published at 8:00 p.m. by the Ipsos and Ifop institutes. The Republicans who have not formed an alliance with the RN stand at 10%.

The first projections of seats for the future National Assembly, to be taken with great caution, predict a strong relative majority for the RN and its allies, or even an absolute majority at the end of the second round next Sunday.

“We need an absolute majority,” launched Marine Le Pen, also announcing her own election as a deputy in the first round in her stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont. According to the three-time presidential candidate, “the Macronist bloc” is “practically erased” after this first Sunday of voting.

Following the surprise dissolution of the National Assembly, announced by the Head of State on the evening of the defeat of his candidates in the European elections of June 9, the political landscape is expected to be profoundly shaken.

But in reality, there are 577 ballots to choose as many deputies, and the reconfiguration will depend on the dynamics between now and the second round, next Sunday, and on possible withdrawals and voting instructions in each constituency. Especially since the second round should be marked by a record number of potential three-way races.

According to Ipsos, there could be between 65 and 85 elected in the first round, and potentially more than 300 triangular (before withdrawals), a completely new situation which reinforces the vagueness on the projections.

“Large gathering”

“Faced with the National Rally, the time has come for a broad, clearly democratic and republican gathering for the second round,” affirmed Emmanuel Macron in a written statement sent to the media at 8:00 p.m.

He welcomed the “high participation” which “testifies to the importance of this vote for all our compatriots and the desire to clarify the political situation”. “Their democratic choice obliges us,” he added, after bringing together the leaders of the parties with whom he has governed since 2017.

Among them, the head of the MoDem François Bayrou said he regretted a “sanction vote” which represented a “threat”.

While the “republican front” against the extreme right has continued to crack over the years, the President of the Republic has not completely clarified the attitude to follow in the event of duels between the RN and the NFP or three-way contests.

Tenors in his camp seemed until now to lean more towards “neither RN nor La France insoumise”, castigated by the left and criticized even in his own camp. The attitude of the Macronist camp towards the LFI candidates remains uncertain.

On the left, several leaders have again called for their troops to withdraw if another candidate is better placed to block the RN.

After maintaining a certain vagueness, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of La France insoumise, announced that his candidates would withdraw if they finished third and the RN was in the lead.

“It would be incomprehensible if some people continued not to differentiate between the left and the far right,” reacted the head of the Ecologists Marine Tondelier, calling for the “construction of a new republican front.”

The RN sees the unprecedented prospect of obtaining a relative or absolute majority on July 7, with the best score in its history in the first round of a vote, improving on the already record score of the European elections.

Embodied by the smooth face of its young president Jordan Bardella, 28 years old, the Le Pen party hopes to transform the test in a week.

If Jordan Bardella entered Matignon, it would be the first time since the Second World War that a government from the extreme right would lead France. The president of the RN, however, warned that he would only accept the post of Prime Minister if his party holds an absolute majority.

It would also be an unprecedented cohabitation between Emmanuel Macron, a pro-European president, and a government much more hostile to the European Union, which could cause sparks to fly over the prerogatives of the two heads of the executive, particularly in matters of diplomacy and defense.

Jordan Bardella declared on Sunday evening that he “intends to be a Prime Minister of cohabitation, respectful of the Constitution” but “intransigent”.

Assembly blocked?

Another possible scenario is that of a blocked Assembly, with no possible alliance between very polarized camps, at the risk of plunging France into the unknown.

Despite differences that could have seemed irreconcilable, the left managed to unite in the wake of the dissolution, despite disagreements between LFI and its partners that disrupted its campaign, particularly over the contested leadership of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Meanwhile, nothing seemed to slow down the RN's momentum in the campaign on purchasing power and against immigration: neither the vagueness over the repeal of Emmanuel Macron's pension reform nor the controversies over dual nationals, or the sulphurous remarks of certain far-right candidates.

At the end of this day which saw a large influx into the polling stations, participation should be at least 65% of those registered, according to polling institutes. That is to say well above the 47.51% in 2022, but below the 67.9% of the last legislative elections organized after a dissolution, in 1997.

Several figures of national politics have launched into the battle, such as former president François Hollande in Corrèze (leading the first round with 37.7%) or one of the tenors of the right Laurent Wauquiez (leading in his constituency of Haute-Loire).

His party, Les Républicains, has also announced that it will not give voting instructions before the second round.

Several ministers are also candidates, and some of them were gathered on Sunday at Matignon, where Gabriel Attal is due to speak in the evening.

“Finding serenity”

Overseas, outgoing deputies from the centrist Liot group or invested by the NFP are in the lead in Guadeloupe and Guyana. In Polynesia, the autonomist candidate Moerani Frébault was elected in the first round. First elected of the 577 new deputies, he will also be the first Marquesan to sit in the National Assembly.

“I would like to find some peace because since the European elections, everything has taken on a worrying scale. But we must continue to fight for what we believe in,” Roxane Lebrun, 40, told AFP in Bordeaux. In Saint-Etienne, Christophe, a 22-year-old police officer, was worried about a vote that could “divide the population even more.”

In Rennes as in Lyon, many shops in the city centre have protected their windows for fear of disturbances after the announcement of the results.

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