French legislative elections: The ‘dam’ holding back the far right is crumbling

France’s tradition of mainstream parties uniting to defeat the far-right Rassemblement National failed for the first time on Sunday, June 19, allowing 89 MPs to enter the Assemblée Nationale.

June 22, 2022

The 2022 French legislative elections mark the end of a cycle – the normalization of the Rassemblement National (RN). The process started more than 10 years ago, when Marine Le Pen became the leader of the Front National (ancestor of the RN). The completion of her so-called “de-demonization” strategy was made possible by the near disappearance of the “Republican front,” the French tradition whereby mainstream parties (and their voters) join forces against far-right candidates in the second round of elections. The RN no longer seems to be the bogeyman of French political life, in the eyes of part of French people.

This phenomenon is not new. At every passing election, there have been more and more signs pointing to the Republican front’s obsolescence. But the legislative elections showed it most clearly. In districts where the RN was present in the second round, vote transfers from eliminated candidates did not always benefit the RN’s opponent. Many French people also took refuge in abstention or opted to vote for the far-right party.

According to the Ipsos polling institute, in duels between the NUPES left-wing alliance and RN, voters from the presidential coalition Ensemble! abstained (or voted blank or null) at a rate of 72%. Some 16% voted for the left and 12% for RN.

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