France’s allies relieved by Le Pen loss but wonder what’s next


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France’s allies relieved by Le Pen loss but wonder what’s next

Marine Tondelier, National Secretary of Les Ecologistes (The Ecologists - Greens) party and member of the alliance of left-wing parties, called the "Nouveau Front Populaire" (New Popular Front), arrives at the Ecologistes party headquarters, on day after second round of the early French parliamentary elections, in Paris, France, July 8, 2024.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

The National Rally's defeat signals at least a temporary pushback against a far-right surge in Europe, but could herald a period of instability with a new government in an uneasy 'cohabitation' with President Emmanuel Macron.

Many of France’s allies breathed a sigh of relief after Marine Le Pen’s far-right failed to win a snap election on Sunday, July 7, but they noted that a messy coalition from a hung parliament could also pose headaches for Europe.

Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) had been favorite to top the polls, raising the risk of France’s first far-right government since World War Two and threatening to upend economic and foreign policy in the euro zone’s second-largest economy.

In particular, Ukraine’s allies feared a Le Pen-led government could be soft on Moscow and pare back military aid that Kyiv has relied on since the Russian invasion in 2022, though her party has latterly said Russia was a threat.

The National Rally’s defeat signals at least a temporary pushback against a far-right surge in Europe, but could herald a period of instability with a new government in an uneasy “cohabitation” with President Emmanuel Macron.

“First of all I am quite relieved there was no right-wing landslide,” said Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, lauding efforts to prevent a “drifting towards nationalism and thereby moving Europe into even more difficult waters.”

“But nevertheless the election result will now represent an enormous challenge, especially for France itself, but of course also for Europe, which is currently in the phase of reorganization after the European elections, and also for the German-French relationship,” he added.

Habeck’s government was using contacts with various parties to clarify the challenges ahead, he told reporters in Stuttgart.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk struck a positive tone.

“In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” Tusk said on X.

Macron’s gamble

Macron had called the snap poll in an attempt to wrest the initiative back from Le Pen but his own party was left trailing behind an alliance of leftist parties that performed far better than expected to take first place.

Several early reactions from overseas rejoiced that the immediate threat of a far-right government had been averted.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told the radio station RNE he was happy to see a defeat for the far right, which he described as “completely contrary to European values”.

Nikos Androulakis, the head of Greece’s Socialist PASOK party, said the French people had “raised a wall against the far right, racism and intolerance and guarded the timeless principles of the French Republic: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”

Supportive messages came from leaders in Mexico and Venezuela, while Colombia’s leftist firebrand President, Gustavo Petro, also congratulated the French for keeping out Le Pen.

“There are battles that last just a few days but (which) define humanity’s fate. France has gone through one of these,” he said.

An EU official called it a “huge relief” but added: “what it means for Europe on a day to day basis remains to be seen though.”

Deep divisions

The election left the French parliament split between three large groups – the left, the centrists, and the far right – with different platforms and no tradition of working together.

The left wants to cap prices of essential goods like fuel and food, raise the minimum wage and the salaries of public sector workers, at a time when France’s budget deficit is already at 5.5% of output, higher than EU rules permit.

“Bye-bye European deficit limits! (The government) will crash in no time. Poor France. It can console itself with (Kylian) Mbappé,” said Claudio Borghi, senator from Italy’s right-wing League party, referring to the French soccer star.

Other hard-right politicians expressed frustration.

Andre Ventura, leader of Portugal’s far-right party Chega, called the result a “disaster for the economy, tragedy for immigration and bad for the fight against corruption”.

A note by Capital Economics said France may have avoided the “worst possible outcomes” for investors, of an outright majority for either Le Pen or the leftists.

A fractious parliament means however it will be difficult for any government to pass the budget cuts that are necessary for France to comply with the EU’s budget rules, it said.

“Meanwhile, the chance of France’s government (and the governments of other countries) clashing with the EU over fiscal policy has increased now that the bloc’s budget rules have been re-introduced,” it said. –

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