By Cécile Barbière
In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s party failed to defeat Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National. Surprisingly, the Greens became the third largest French force in the new European Parliament. EURACTIV France reports.
The electoral campaign, which was led in the form of a clash between Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) and Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM), eventually favoured the French far-right party.
“There has been a strong increase in voter turnout and this is excellent news for our democracy;” declared Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
“The results of these European elections are like the first round of the French presidential elections. French people placed the far right in front. This is not the first time, but I will never be in the camp of those who are indifferent,” he added, regretting that “the far right is gaining ground, election after election.”
The anti-European party is in the lead with 23% of the votes, according to first estimates published by the French Institute of public opinion (Ifop). And Macron’s LREM is right behind with 22%. Despite its victory, Le Pen’s RN reached about the same percentage of votes as it did during the previous EU elections in 2014.
“The French people made their voice heard with an unexpected force. This is proof of a rise by the people against those in power. […] The EU cannot ignore such a call for freedom, for sovereignty,” declared Jordan Bardella, RN’s list leader.
The ruling party wanted to make this election a choice between the pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics. But the half-hearted campaign by LREM’s list leader Nathalie Loiseau did not work against the high number of people that voted for Rassemblement National.
On the European Parliament side, LREM will be sitting among the liberal group (ALDE), an alliance that was confirmed on Sunday.
The first surprise of these elections was the number of voters who cast their ballot. With expected voter turnout to be at 42%, like in 2014, participation ended up being far higher.
According to provisional estimates, the turnout was eight to ten points higher than during the last European Parliament elections and is expected to reach between 52% and 54%.
This unexpected participation even resulted in a few surprises.
While the two leading parties had similar results to what the pollsters had expected, the French Greens, right-wing party Les Républicains (LR) and even Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (LFI) scored some surprises.