Official results show a victory for the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) alliance. Image Credit: AFP


  • The French leftist alliance is the surprise victor, winning the most seats
  • Far-left leader Melenchon vows to implement his high-spending plan
  • Lack of a clear majority signals uncertainty over France’s political direction
  • French bond futures, euro slip and European stock futures little changed

A left-wing coalition is on course to win the most seats in France's legislative election in a surprise blow to far-right leader Marine Le Pen's hopes of forming the next government.

The New Popular Front, which includes the Socialists and far-left France Unbowed, is poised to get between 170 and 215 seats in the National Assembly, according to early projections. That's still far short of the 289 required for an absolute majority in the 577-seat lower house.

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Le Pen's National Rally, which pollsters last week had seen winning the most seats, is expected to come in third, getting between 110 and 158 seats, while President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance is set to place second with 150 to 182.

A victory for the New Popular Front is likely to alarm investors concerned about the state of France's public finances. The group has promised a major increase in public spending, a boost to the minimum wage and a cut in the retirement age, measures that would provoke a major clash with the European Union.

Here’s what you need to know:
The left-wing coalition surprised by winning the most seats - 178 based on data compiled by the Interior Ministry. President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance came second with 156 seats.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally - which dominated the initial vote only a week ago - was relegated to third, with 143.

But no party has a majority and no clear path to forming a government, setting the stage for weeks of turmoil.

Macron could try to cobble a coalition among willing but not always like-minded parties. Or he could name a technocratic administration.

While markets had fretted over a Le Pen-dominated government, the left’s success will likely concern players given its high-spending pledges. Some strategists though have suggested a hung parliament would be a positive outcome for investors, as it would limit how much the left alliance can do. - Bloomberg

Even if the group doesn't have the votes to govern alone, it's likely to demand new spending commitments from Macron in order to form a new administration.

Since no party is expected to get more than 50 per cent of the seats in parliament, Macron will have to name a prime minister to lead a minority government. That post usually goes to the group that wins the most seats, but the indecisive result could lead to a period of coalition building among parties.

The projections offer some vindication for Macron's call to dissolve parliament following a crushing defeat to Le Pen's party last month. He was been widely criticized for the decision after his party finished a distant third in the first round of voting last week in which Le Pen seized the initiative.

The past week has seen frantic efforts to activate the so called Republican Front "- an arrangement in which mainstream parties strategically pull candidates from certain races to bolster anti-National Rally votes. Macron's party withdrew 76 candidates from runoff contests where they had little chance of winning, in order to avoid splitting the anti-Le Pen vote. The New Popular Front withdrew 130.

France can ill-afford a sharp increase in spending to appease dissatisfied voters since the government is already struggling to contain the budget deficit. The European Commission last month put the country in a special procedure for breaching deficit rules that could make it difficult to limit efforts to implement any ambitious spending plans while adhering to EU rules.

Macron dissolved the lower house nearly four weeks ago and called a snap vote after his group was trounced in European elections.

France's CAC 40 Index has been the worst performer among major European stock indexes since Macron called the snap election last month, while at the peak of the selloff a metric of bond-market risk soared to its highest since the sovereign debt crisis.

Stocks rallied last week after the first-round vote eased worries about a far-right government, and overall market stress has receded.

Still, the CAC 40 remains roughly 4 per cent below levels seen before the June 9 snap election call. The premium that investors demand to hold French government bonds over German ones stands at less than 70 basis points, below the peak of 86 basis points in the wake of the election call but well above the level of 50 basis points from early June.