Voters in France block National Rally

Jean-Luc Mélenchon at the podium speaking to a meeting of his party France Insoumise, part of the New Popular Front after election, July 7, 2024.

Much to the surprise of many observers of France’s parliamentary election, young people who supported the leftist New Popular Front coalition could joyfully celebrate the July 7 result. They told the fascist National Rally, known for its racism, Islamophobia and fascism, to “f**k off!” That was the best result from a still unresolved class struggle in France.

The period leading to that election started just after June 8 when President Joe Biden was in France for D-Day ceremonies promoting NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine. He attended a military parade along the Champs-Elysées after laying a wreath at France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This was followed by a sumptuous, highly chic, glamorous dinner at the Elysée Palace that let President Emmanuel Macron pump up the NATO offensive. 

European election result

The next day, when Macron got the results of the European Union election, he unleashed the crisis. The National Rally (formerly the National Front) got over 31% of the vote, more than double the vote for Macron’s party.. In response to this humiliating electoral setback that indicated massive loss of support for his regime, Macron called snap elections for June 30 and July 7 for the French Parliament, with the election campaign beginning June 16.

Whatever his reason, Macron’s decision to call the election raised the possibility that the National Rally could win and perhaps even get a majority of seats in the French Assembly. That would have guaranteed that the National Rally would provide France’s next prime minister, with Macron remaining president. 

The National Rally openly attacks workers, people of color, women, gay, queer and trans people and some of its election posters urged the murder of leftist candidates. Its main political leader, Marine Le Pen, who has attempted to polish its image to make it an acceptable party on the French electoral spectrum, focuses on bashing migrants. This party engages in demagogy that has attracted support from some alienated sectors of society.

A group of nominally left parties — France Insoumise, which has called for recognition of Palestine, the Communist Party of France, Greens and the Socialist Party (the last two parties really support the capitalist establishment) — formed the New Popular Front (NFP) to better confront both the National Rally and Macron’s Ensemble coalition. None of these parties actively oppose NATO.

Macron himself is unpopular and for good reason. Basically, he is a banker, a servant of financial capital and lines up with the European Union bureaucracy and with U.S. and NATO foreign policy. He used police and gendarmes to brutally repress the anti-regime Yellow Vest movement. He raised the age for retired workers to receive full pensions and used police against workers and retirees who protested this cut.

Macron supports Israel regarding Gaza and has threatened to put NATO troops on the ground in Ukraine against Russia. 

First round: Le Pen ahead

The results of the first round of voting on June 30, where many parties can run in each election district, continued the mood of the European elections. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally got over 33% of the vote. The New Popular Front alliance came in second with nearly 28%, and Macron’s electoral coalition Ensemble barely got 20% of the vote; about  60% of eligible people voted. 

Because many people wanted to prevent a National Rally victory, and some were attracted to the left coalition, popular interest in the elections was much greater than in other recent parliamentary votes. Over 3 million voters made a formal request to vote remotely — many being on vacation in July. French television showed political debates on the beach.

The NFP made sure that its pro-worker program shared by its parties — scrapping the 2023 French pension reform law, increasing public sector salaries and welfare benefits, raising the minimum wage by 14% and freezing the price of basic food items and energy — was well publicized. Its support for Palestinian statehood and opposition to the genocide in Gaza was more muted.

In the second round only candidates who can get a certain minimum (12.5%) of the eligible voters in an election district can run. In most districts — over 300 of the total 577 — there were three-way races set for the second round of voting. 

Second round: NFP led

Since a three-way race made it more likely the National Rally would win, the NFP and Macron’s party agreed in most cases to withdraw the candidate with less votes in the first round and thus increase the chances of a NR defeat. They avoided competing in over 200 election districts, with more left candidates withdrawing. The result of this electoral maneuver: The NFP won 182 seats; Macron’s Ensemble coalition won 168; and the National Rally won 143. 

For this moment, voters in France rejected a National Rally government. But none of the  basic problems of capitalist society in France have been resolved. Nor has any government yet been formed. And there is little doubt that the class struggle will intensify.

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