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France’s far right leads in first round of elections, exit polls show | Elections News

France’s far right leads in first round of elections, exit polls show | Elections News

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France’s far-right National Rally (RN) party holds a clear lead in the first round of the country’s snap parliamentary elections, according to exit polls.

Pollsters IFOP, Ipsos, OpinionWay and Elabe projected Marine Le Pen’s RN winning around 34 percent of votes, while the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) coalition was seen coming in second with around 29 percent, ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble Alliance in third spot with around 20.3 percent.

Pollster Elabe said in an estimate for BFM TV that the RN and its allies could win 260-310 parliament seats in the second voting round on July 7, while Ipsos projected a range of 230-280 seats for RN and its allies in a poll for France Television.

A total 289 seats are needed for an absolute majority in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.

Le Pen and Bardella welcomes results

Le Pen welcomed the results and told a celebratory crowd that the French people have placed the RN in front, and that they have practically wiped out Macron’s camp.

RN President Jordan Bardella pointed out that next Sunday’s second round will be “the most important in the history of the French Fifth Republic”.

He also reiterated that Macron’s party has been wiped out and accused the far left of creating an “existential crisis” representing “a real danger to France and all the French people”.

Reporting from Bardella’s campaign headquarters in France, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith said that the results are significant for the far right RN party but that doesn’t give them the overall majority they hoped for.

“There’s a long way to go between now and then. There will be a lot of political jockeying for positions, with other parties trying and removing candidates from some constituencies to stop the National Rally from getting through,” Smith said.

Macron calls for a ‘broad democratic alliance’

President Macron has called for a “broad” democratic alliance against the far right after the exit poll projections for the second round.

“Faced with National Rally, the time has come for a broad, clearly democratic and republican alliance for the second round,” he said in a statement.

He also said that the high turnout in the first round spoke of “the importance of this vote for all our compatriots and the desire to clarify the political situation”.

After the results, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who leads the left-wing New Popular Front, has said he will withdraw candidates who have placed in third in the first round of parliamentary elections, in order to defeat the highest number of far-right RN candidates in the second round.

“In line with our principles and our stances in all previous elections, we will never allow the National Rally to achieve victory,” said Melenchon.

High turnout

On Sunday, Ipsos estimated that the participation rate at 8pm (18:00 GMT), when polls closed, was 65.5 percent, which would be the highest since 1997.

But the projected results, which were in line with polls ahead of the election, provide little clarity on whether the anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic RN will be able to form a government alongside the pro-European Union Macron.

According to Rim-Sarah Alouane, an academic at University Toulouse-Capitole, “she [Le Pen] has done plastic surgery to her party”.

“But is it still the same rotten, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-minorities party … we know what the far right is standing for,” Alouane told Al Jazeera.

She said the results of this vote were also a rejection of Macron’s policies.

“I know personally about cases of people who voted for the far right because of the policies made by Macron especially at an economic level,” Alouane said.

A week of political bargaining now lies ahead of the July 7 run-off.

The final result will depend on how parties decide to join forces in each of France’s 577 constituencies for the second round.

In the past, France’s centre-right and centre-left parties have teamed up to keep the RN from taking power, but that dynamic, called the “republican front” in France, is now less certain than ever.

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