The leader of the French extreme right, Marine Le Pen, has already begun to unveil the list of demands of her formation National Rally (RN) after her unexpected success in Sunday’s general election. Almost simultaneously, the other parties are blaming each other for the failure of the cordon sanitaire that has allowed 89 Ultra MPs to attend the next National Assembly, the highest number in their history.
The high level of abstention – more than half of France’s eligible voters did not vote on Sunday – has played a key role in the complicated composition of France’s hemicycle and the weight of the far right in parliament. But this new scenario is also the result of a progressive weakening of the Republican front, albeit accelerated since April’s presidential election. This is what is called the Cordon Sanitaire in France, which for the past two decades has managed to prevent the extreme right from gaining institutional power, even as it increased its electoral strength election after election.
More than the slogans not to vote for the RN, the presidential elections, but especially the parliamentary elections, were marked by a media duel between President Emmanuel Macron and the leader of the populist left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, architect of the NUPES alliance ( the New People’s Ecological and Social Union with Socialists, Communists and Ecologists) for parliamentarians. In this context, more than the already lukewarm “no vote for the RN” from all camps, the message “everything but Macron” seems to have permeated a large part of the NUPES voters, and also an “everything but Mélenchon” in the area of the macronism. A situation that finally benefited Le Pen’s party, which went from 8 to 89 MPs, while the polls gave it a maximum of 50 at best.
Mélenchon accused Macron on Monday of being “mainly responsible” for the success of the extreme right. But the polls show that the cordon sanitaire of the other parties against Le Pen has been broken among left-wing voters in a similar way as it was within Macronism.
According to a survey by the Harris Interactive Institute for the networks M6 and RTL, in the 107 constituencies where the second round was played between a candidate from the Ensemble Macronista formation and one of the RN, 45% of those who were in the first round voted for the NUPES and abstained in the second. Only 31% voted for Ensemble, activating the cordon sanitaire, while 24% favored the extreme right.
Meanwhile, in the 66 constituencies where the duel between NUPES and the far right took place, 48% of Macronist voters abstained, 18% voted for the RN and 34% used cordon sanitaire when voting for the left candidate . Meanwhile, the right wing of Los Republicanos was split into three similar blocs: 37% abstained, 36% voted for the left candidate and 27% for the extreme right.
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The conclusions about the failure of the republican front are similar in other demographic institutes. “I don’t know if the Republican front is dead, but it is [el domingo] it didn’t work,” Stéphane Zumsteeg, director of the Ipsos Institute’s Political Opinion department, concluded this Monday on Franceinfo radio.
The French cordon sanitaire suffered its first shock in 2017 when, after being eliminated in the first round of the presidential election, Mélenchon refused to openly ask for a vote for Macron, confining himself to saying “not to be a vote”. should go to the Front National, as Le Pen’s party was then called. Five years later, the final blow — and it remains to be seen if it will be final — against the anti-extreme bipartisan alliance after the first round of general elections came and came not just from Melenchonism, but from the Macron camp that broadcast the news , confusing to say the least.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne even equated the extreme right and the radical left when she declared: “In the face of extremes, we will not back down. Neither on one side nor on the other.” Later, Macronism initially said that it would be decided “on a case-by-case basis” in order to ultimately bring about the same “no vote for Le Pen” that Mélenchon had accused at the time of and in the space for both election slogans, Le Pen is a rival of the far right when it comes to abstentions.
While allegations rain down – and few mea culpa– the RN is already beginning to claim the power quotas that the tenfold increase in parliamentary strength gives it. “We are the first opposition group,” Le Pen claimed on Monday. “We will demand the chairmanship of the Finance Commission [estratégica porque supervisa la preparación del presupuesto y tradicionalmente está dirigida por el primer partido de oposición] and a vice presidency of the congregation. We won’t compromise on anything!” he promised.
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