EventsEventsPodcasts
Loader
Find Us
ADVERTISEMENT

France's second round legislative runoff elections explained

Preparación de las elecciones francesas, segunda ronda
Preparación de las elecciones francesas, segunda ronda Copyright Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
Published on
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Voters in France cast their ballots on Sunday in the second round of what's being tipped as crucial snap parliamentary elections that could produce the country's first far-right government since World War II.

Why are these elections taking place?

ADVERTISEMENT

President Emmanuel Macron took a high stakes gamble on June 9th after his Renew party lost badly to Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally in the EU elections. 

The National Rally took more than 31% of the vote that night, with Renew limping in with just over 14%. 

He dissolved the National Assembly and called surprise snap elections hours later saying, "I have decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future by voting." 

A voter casts a ballot at a polling station in Rennes, June 30, 2024
A voter casts a ballot at a polling station in Rennes, June 30, 2024Jeremias Gonzalez/Copyright 2024. The AP

What happened in the first round?

In the first round of voting, which took place on June 30th, no party passed the threshold of 289 seats for an outright win.

The National Rally gained just over 33.1% of the votes cast, about three percentage points behind opinion poll predictions, but still the clear winner.

For the first time, the party came in top in the first round of voting after nearly doubling its support since France last elected its National Assembly in 2022.

Macron's 'Ensemble' (Together) coalition reached a fraction short of 21% of the vote – down on where it was at the equivalent stage of the 2022 legislative elections.

Left-wing parties performed relatively strongly.

The New Popular Front, an alliance of the Socialist Party, Greens, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon's France Unbowed formed after elections were called, garnered 28% – a slight improvement on the 25.7% that NUPES, the equivalent coalition, reached in 2022.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron stand in the voting booth before voting in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, June 30, 2024
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron stand in the voting booth before voting in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, June 30, 2024Yara Nardi/AP

Which parties are in the race?

There are several parties in the running but the race will essentially be between four main contenders.

The far-right National Rally and its allies, the leftist New Popular Front, the centrist ‘Ensemble’ alliance and the conservative Republicans. 

What happens on Sunday?

Voters across France and overseas territories can cast ballots for 501 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, the lower and most important of France’s two houses of parliament. 

In the frantic week between the two rounds, more than 200 centrist and left-wing candidates pulled out of races to boost the chances of their moderate rivals and try to keep National Rally candidates from winning.

Final pre-election polls suggest that tactic may have diminished the far right's chances of an absolute majority. But Le Pen's party has wider and deeper support than ever before, and it's up to voters to decide. 

Voters in France's overseas territories and French citizens abroad began casting their ballots on Saturday. 

ADVERTISEMENT
A car drives past electoral posters in Strasbourg, June 27, 2024
A car drives past electoral posters in Strasbourg, June 27, 2024 Jean-Francois Badias/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

What are the possible outcomes?

Polling projections suggest the National Rally is likely to have the most seats in the next National Assembly, which would be a historic first.

If it wins an absolute majority of 289 seats, Macron would be expected to appoint National Rally president Jordan Bardella as France's new prime minister. Bardella could then form a government, and he and Macron would share power in a system called "cohabitation". 

If the party doesn't win a majority but still has a large number of seats, Macron could name Bardella anyway, though the National Rally might refuse out of fears that its government could be ejected in a no-confidence vote.

Or Macron could seek to build a coalition with moderates and possibly choose a prime minister from the centre-left.

ADVERTISEMENT

If there's no party with a clear mandate to govern, Macron could name a government of experts unaffiliated with political parties. Such a government would likely deal mostly with the day-to-day affairs of keeping France running.

But complicating matters is the fact that all of those options require parliamentary approval.

If political talks take too long amid summer holidays and the Paris Olympics, Macron's centrist government could keep a transitional government pending further decisions.

A general view of the National Assembly in Paris, December 11, 2023
A general view of the National Assembly in Paris, December 11, 2023Michel Euler/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

How does cohabitation work?

If an opposition force wins a majority, Macron would be forced to appoint a prime minister belonging to that new majority. Under this "cohabitation" arrangement, the government would implement policies that diverge from the president’s plans.

ADVERTISEMENT

France's modern Republic has experienced three cohabitations, the last one under conservative President Jacques Chirac, with Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, from 1997 to 2002.

The prime minister is accountable to the parliament, leads the government and introduces bills.

The president is weakened at home during cohabitation, but still holds some powers over foreign policy, European affairs and defence and is in charge of negotiating and ratifying international treaties. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, and holds the nuclear codes.

People walk in front of an electoral panel in Rennes, June 30, 2024
People walk in front of an electoral panel in Rennes, June 30, 2024AP Photo

What happens in the case of a hung parliament?

While not uncommon in other European countries, modern France has never experienced a parliament with no dominant party.

ADVERTISEMENT

Such a situation requires lawmakers to build consensus across parties to agree on government positions and legislation. France's fractious politics and deep divisions over taxes, immigration and Mideast policy make that especially challenging.

That would likely derail Macron's promises to overhaul unemployment benefits or legalise life-ending procedures for the terminally ill, among other reforms. It could also make passing a budget more difficult.

A voter casts a ballot at a polling station for the first round of the parliamentary elections in Paris, June 30, 2024
A voter casts a ballot at a polling station for the first round of the parliamentary elections in Paris, June 30, 2024AP Photo

When will we know the results?

Polls open across the country at 8am local time and close at 6pm in towns and small cities and 8pm in major urban centres.

Pollsters will issue initial nationwide projections based on early partial results from polling stations just after they close. These exit polls are generally reliable.

ADVERTISEMENT

Vote counting is fast and the result could be known as soon as Sunday night or, at the latest, in the early hours of Monday.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

France overseas residents begin voting in second-round of elections

What are the economic stakes in France's second round election?

Fake news batters UK and France ahead of elections