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Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) won the first round of legislative elections on Sunday, leaving incumbent president Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance lagging in third behind the left, projections by polling groups said.

The projections gave the RN 34% of the vote, compared to 29.1% for the left-wing New Popular Front alliance, and just 22% for Macron's centrist camp.

Many French voters are frustrated about inflation and other economic concerns, as well as Macron's leadership, seen as arrogant and out-of-touch with their lives. The National Rally party has tapped that discontent, notably via online platforms such as TikTok.

Le Pen, the daughter of the party's racist and anti-Semitic father Jean-Marie, said Macron's alliance was 'almost wiped out' during the first round of voting.

The first round of this year's election, called by Macron after a devastating loss in the European Parliament elections earlier this month, saw record levels of turnout.

Polls suggested 67.5% of people votes in the national election, the highest participation in a regular format legislative election in France since 1981. The final turnout in 2022, the last time national elections were held in the nation, was just 47.5%.

Despite the win, it is still not currently clear whether Le Pen's party would win an absolute majority of seats in the new National Assembly lower house in the July 7 second round and claim the post of prime minister.

The second round will see run-off votes take place in seats where there was no absolute majority, allowing the final shape of the National Assembly to form.

The vote could give 28-year-old RN party chief Jordan Bardella, a protege of its longtime leader Marine Le Pen, the chance to form a government, making it the first time the far-right takes the reins of power in France since the Nazi occupation during WWII.
The vote could give 28-year-old RN party chief Jordan Bardella (pictured), a protege of its longtime leader Marine Le Pen, the chance to form a government
The last far-right leaders of France were Philippe Pétai and his prime minister, Pierre Laval, who headed the Vichy regime that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

Comment: One gets the impression the Daily Mail is deliberately highlighting this fact so that readers associate right-wing parties with Nazism, it wouldn't be the first time after all.

Bardella has previously said he would only form a government if the RN wins an absolute majority in the elections, but the party has said that the far-right wunderkind would become the country's prime minister, while Macron would stay president until his term expires in 2027 in an awkward power-sharing arrangement called 'cohabitation' in France.

Gabriel Attal, France's current prime minister, said tonight that the 'extreme right is on the verge of power', adding:

'Not a single vote should go to the National Rally in such circumstances. France deserves that we do not hesitate. Never.'

Speaking from her constituency of Hénin-Beaumont, in northern France, where she was elected to parliament without the need for a second round, Le Pen said she said the RN was finally preparing for power for the first time in its history.

'In democracy, nothing is healthier than political change,' said Ms Le Pen. 'We need an absolute majority for Jordan Bardella to be appointed prime minister by Emmanuel Macron.

'I call on you to join the coalition of freedom, security and unity. No French person will lose rights - hope is reborn!'

Despite his humiliating third-place finish in the first round of voting, Macron called for a broad coalition to come together to stop the RN next weekend.

He said: 'Faced with the National Rally, the time has come for a large, clearly democratic and Republican rally for the second round.'

Bardella hit back, telling voters that he would be the 'protector' of their rights and freedoms.

'Next Sunday, victory is possible and the alternative is possible', he added.

At time of publication, just 176 of the 577 constituencies in France have declared definitive results. While RN has won over a hundred of them, very few have declared as wins of absolute majority, meaning they will run off to the second round.

Ipsos, the polling company, previously estimated that nearly half of France's constituencies will go to three-way runoffs, making a prediction of the final results incredibly difficult.

Senior figures in the New Popular Front, the left-wing coalition that came second in the first round, have pledged to pull out of any races where NFP candidates came third and RN candidates came first, in order to allow citizens to vote out the far-right.

Ensemble, the coalition that Macron leads, has done the same, local media reported.
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Demonstrators raise their arms as they gather to protest against the French far-right National Rally party
nantes France
Demonstrators hold a banner reading 'what we don't get through the ballot box, we'll get through the street' as they take part in a rally after the announcement of the results of the first round of parliamentary elections in Nantes, western France
Demonstrators hold a banner reading 'eat five cops and nazis a day' as they take part in a rally after the announcement of the results of the first round of parliamentary elections in Nantes
Talks over the next 48 hours will be crucial and could swing the results significantly, potentially deciding whether the RN reaches an outright majority in parliament or not.

But much has already been decided by the voters, who have suffered through the anti-government 'yellow vest' movement, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine.

Macron aligned with allies offering support to Ukraine after Russia's 2022 invasion, but he irritated many by continuing to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Two years later however, some criticise him for his hawkish stance. Macron refuses to rule out sending troops to Ukraine, a move criticised by other Western countries as unnecessarily inflammatory.

The late Gerard Collomb, former mayor of Lyon, was more direct in his criticism, calling out Macron's 'hubris' and a 'lack of humility' in the government.

The perception that Macron is increasingly isolated is part of the problem, said one former advisor.

'He has no grassroots network... the people around him are the same, they don't express the mood of the times,' they added.

On the evening of his 2017 victory, Macron pledged in front of the Louvre museum to do 'everything' in his power to ensure the French 'no longer have any reason to vote for the extremes'.

For many, though, the young centrist whom they voted for has shifted further and further right, opening the door for other extremes to take hold.

The same man who drew inspiration from an anti-capitalist party slogan to win re-election in 2022 later adopted the words of extreme right-wing figure Eric Zemmour 'so that France remains France'.

For Le Pen, who senses a chance to take the presidency in 2027, Macron has 'a plasticity, an incredible self-confidence which is both his strength and his weakness'.

A former special advisor sees that plasticity differently.

'He's turning his back on ... 2017 and humanist values,' said Philippe Grangeon. 'There is no right-wing turn... the president is adapting to shifting opinion.'

Macron dismisses these criticisms, saying he ultimately relies on himself. 'You make the toughest decisions on your own,' he said.