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Jean-Luc Mélenchon, president of La France Insoumise, wasted no time in capitalizing on the initial poll results of the French legislative vote, which showed strong performance by the leftist parties Image Credit: AFP

The latest chapter in France’s tumultuous political saga unfolded with a tense alliance between centrist and leftist parties, a union forged to stave off the far-right National Rally (RN). This uneasy coalition has succeeded, but the victory is bittersweet. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, the leader of Macron’s centrist alliance, has resigned, a move that underscores the deep fractures within the French political landscape.

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A bloc of left-wing parties will finish first, while President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance in the second. Despite sweeping victories in the first round of voting, RN, known for its anti-immigrant and Euro-sceptic stance, is expected to come in third. The high voter turnout of 67.1% reflects the electorate’s anxiety and engagement.

Leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has declared the results an “immense relief for the majority of people in our country”. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal stated, “Tonight, no absolute majority can be driven by the extremes. We owe it to this French spirit, so deeply attached to the Republic and its values.”

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A potential political stalemate

The snap elections, called by President Macron less than four weeks ago, plunged the nation into a rapid-fire election season that inflamed tensions as centrists scrambled to ally with the left to prevent the far-right from achieving an absolute majority. This alliance, though successful in the immediate term, has left the government fragmented and facing a potential political stalemate.

The political landscape now resembles a battlefield of ideologies with no clear centre of power. This disarray will likely make it difficult to pass new legislation, thrusting France into a period of political inertia. The leftist New Popular Front and Macron’s centrists may win enough seats to form a coalition, but Macron has already rejected any alliance that includes the far-left France Unbowed party.

Macron’s term runs until 2027, but his ability to govern effectively is in question. Traditionally, the president would name a prime minister from the parliamentary group with the most seats in the National Assembly. However, with no single bloc holding a clear majority, this process could become tumultuous, with the prime minister at risk of being overthrown by a no-confidence vote.

“Year of chaos"

As France braces for what could be a “year of chaos,” according to geopolitical commentator Samantha de Bendern, the political landscape is set for intense negotiations and power struggles. The RN, despite falling short of expectations, has secured more seats than ever before, reflecting a worrying trend of rising far-right support among French voters.

The RN’s platform, promising to “put France back on its feet” by prioritising French citizens over immigrants for jobs and housing, and abolishing automatic French citizenship for children of foreign parents, has resonated with a significant portion of the electorate. This support is particularly strong among the youth and those who identify as “disadvantaged.”

Marine Le Pen, the ideological leader of RN, remains defiant, stating that her party’s “victory has only been delayed.” As France enters this period of political uncertainty, the challenge for the centrist and leftist alliances will be to prevent the far-right from capitalising on the current disillusionment.

The road ahead for France is full of challenges. With Prime Minister Attal’s resignation and the fragmented parliament, the political stalemate may impede both domestic policies and France’s international presence.

As Macron deliberates on forming a new government, the priority must be to respect the sovereign choice of the French people while striving to maintain stability and address the underlying issues that have led to this political impasse.

Ahmad Nazir is a UAE based freelance writer, with a degree in education from the Université de Montpellier in Southern France