Legislative Elections in France: The Rebirth of the Republican Front Against All Odds

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Legislative Elections in France: The Rebirth of the Republican Front Against All Odds
Read time: 3 minutes

Once considered weakened or even gone, the Republican Front surprised everyone with its remarkable vigor during the runoff phase of the legislative elections, countering all analysts' predictions.

As in 2022, when the score of the National Rally (RN) was greatly underestimated before the second round, the results of the 2024 early legislative elections baffled all experts.

The far right is set to obtain around 143 deputies in the next legislature, much fewer than the lowest projections published on Friday, which allocated at least 170 or 175 seats to the RN and its allies, and up to 210 or 215.

“The Republican barrier worked, from left-wing voters, that was obvious, but also from centrists, Macronists, and right-wingers, which is rather an interesting lesson,” observes political scientist Frédérique Matonti.

The figures for vote transfers are impressive. Thus, first-round voters for the NFP massively voted against the RN in the second round, when their own candidates withdrew: 72% chose to support a Macronist candidate and 70% an LR candidate, according to an Ipsos-Talan study.

Similarly, voters who opted for the presidential camp in the first round shifted 54% to the left in the case of a PS-Ecologists-PCF vs. RN duel, and still 43% to a rebel candidate against the flame party.

Even Republican voters chose a rebel candidate against the RN by 26%, whereas 38% had cast their vote for the Le Pen party... Yet, all the major LR leaders had adopted a “neither LFI-nor RN” position, or even “neither NFP-nor RN” for some.

With a final turnout of 66.63%, and sometimes much higher in decisive constituencies, the barrier to the RN worked at full capacity.

In Vaucluse, the election of antifa activist Raphaël Arnault, regularly criticized as “the S-file candidate” during the campaign, perfectly illustrates the phenomenon. He thus defeated the RN with 55% of the votes, doubling his vote count compared to the first round.

“The anti-RN Republican front has further strengthened,” explains Ipsos deputy president Brice Teinturier. “In 2022, no one envisaged an RN victory. Here, after the first round, the threat became concrete, so the Republican Front remobilized.”

“Despite all the talk about the normalization of the RN, voters still consider it a dangerous party and are ready to mobilize for candidates very far from their preferences,” adds political scientist and professor at Sciences Po Grenoble Simon Persico.

This analysis error by the institutes, similar to two years ago, reignites the debate on the reliability of seat projections, which are not controlled by the polling commission unlike national vote intention measures.

Some institutes, like Ipsos, had even refrained from publishing projections before the first round due to their fragility, unable to quantify the numerous withdrawals.

Another explanation is the high number of tight duels: in about forty constituencies, the winner obtained less than 51% of the votes cast. Pivot constituencies are particularly difficult to predict.

The tight schedule between the two rounds, with candidacies filed by Tuesday at 6 p.m. and the campaign ending Friday evening, also left little room to measure the dynamics of the crucial last hours before the vote.

This was already the case during the 2019 European elections, with an unexpected rise of the Greens in the final sprint and an unforeseen drop in the LR list's score.

In 2024, the RN's scores continuously dropped throughout the week, while an absolute majority was still conceivable on the evening of the first round. The trend only intensified.

“I kept saying all week that the RN would not have an absolute majority and that it was declining,” defends Brice Teinturier. “We were not heard.”

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