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Relief and joy in Germany over French parliamentary elections turnaround

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands during a press conference in Meseberg, 28 May 2024, File, Closeup
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands during a press conference in Meseberg, 28 May 2024, File, Closeup Copyright AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File
Copyright AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File
By Andreas Rogal
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With most major politicians holding back until the official results are in, the extraordinary turnaround away from a looming hard-right government indicated by the exit polls has led to first reactions in the neighbouring European nation.

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The exit poll of the second round of parliamentary elections in France on Sunday indicated a surprising win for the left-wing alliance and a neck-and-neck race for second place between the governing liberal alliance and the once-favoured hard-right National Rally (RN), causing widespread relief in Germany.

Prominent members of the Greens, part of the ruling coalition in the neighbouring country, were among the first to react on social media platforms.

The party's first political secretary, Emily Büning, posted on X: "Vive la France! Great joy!"

"After the UK, the people in France are now also sending a clear message: not only against right-wing extremists, but for progressive democratic alliances. This is encouraging and important for European cooperation," she added.

From the German government, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD), commented on the exit poll: "A sensational turnaround, if it came to pass."

"Standing together against right-wing populists is a duty in the fight to preserve democratic structures. The elections in Poland, England and now France give us hope," Lauterbach explained.

Yannick Bury, an MP in the German Bundestag for the opposition centre-right CDU, said: "It is now up to us to find common topics and projects with France and to push them forward. This will not be any easier with the new majority situation, but it remains possible. That is the good news of the evening."

Marcus Feldenkirchen, a journalist with Germany's leading weekly magazine Der Spiegel, posted on X:  "The election result from France is a huge surprise and a very nice one."

Not everyone is happy

There have also been some critical comments, however, in particular concerning Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the biggest party in the New Popular Front alliance, who has already called for Macron to step down and made a claim to lead the new government in response to the exit poll.

In reaction to Mélenchon's first words after his coalition's victory, Miriam Hollstein, the leading weekly magazine Der Stern's chief political correspondent, posted a sarcastic comment on X: "Mélenchon wants to lead France out of NATO, is anti-European and has long been a Putin apologist. Will certainly be much better with him than with Bardella."

These crucial elections have been watched very closely in Germany, and the prospect of a possible far-right government had clearly terrified many, including Scholz, who admitted in a recent interview to his hope "that parties that are not [Marine] Le Pen, to put it that way, are successful in the election."

Ironically, even the German far-right equivalent, the AfD, seems unmoved by the RN's projected failure, with its supporters commenting on social media that "France was never our friend and never will be" — a less-than-subtle reference to the exclusion of the party's delegation from their political group in the European Parliament, Identity and Democracy (ID), very much instigated by Le Pen.  

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