French Elections: Far-Right Gets It Right In Round 1. What’s Different This Time?

The National Rally (RN) has secured approximately 34% of the initial vote in France's two-round parliamentary election, based on early estimates. The leftwing New Popular Front (NFP) coalition is estimated to have garnered between 28% and 29%, while President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Together bloc received around 20% to 22%.
President of France Emmanuel Macron

President of France Emmanuel Macron

Photo : Twitter
The National Rally (RN) has secured approximately 34% of the initial vote in France's two-round parliamentary election, based on early estimates. The leftwing New Popular Front (NFP) coalition is estimated to have garnered between 28% and 29%, while President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Together bloc received around 20% to 22%.
Amid evolving political dynamics, it is important to understand why is this election different.

What’s Different This Time?

The upcoming second round of the 2024 election is likely to witness a record number of "triangular" contests due to several factors. This includes the highest voter turnout since the 1980s and fewer candidates -- dropping from 6,290 in 2022 to 4,011 from three main political camps -- left, centre and far right.
With a turnout estimated at 69% of registered voters participating on Sunday, voters in a substantial number of constituencies could witness a three-way race on July 7, according to polling data reported by The Guardian. Ipsos, a pollster, has projected that as many as half of all seats in the assembly -- between 285 and 315 -- could feature triangular contests.
According to data, three or four-way contests should work in favour of the party with the largest share of the vote in the first round. In these elections, it is generally RN. This is because the opposition vote is split. However, many three-way contests do not remain as such throughout

Rules Of Two-Round System

To win one of the 577 seats in the national assembly in the first round, a candidate must receive more than 50% of the ballots cast. This must also represent at least 25% of registered voters for that constituency.
If no candidate in a constituency achieves more than 50% of the ballots cast in the first round, the top two candidates who secured the highest scores, along with any other candidate who garnered at least 12.5% of the total registered voters, advance to a second round. In this round, the candidate receiving the most votes is elected to the seat.

How Does It Work?

The two-round system is considered disproportionate, as it tends to favour larger parties artificially. For example, with a voter turnout of 65%, the requirement of achieving at least 12.5% of eligible voters to advance to the second round means parties would need to secure nearly 20% of the eligible voters' support.
In recent legislative elections, turnout has been notably lower. Reports suggest that in nearly every constituency, only two candidates have advanced to the second round, resulting in very few three- or four-way contests.
With a turnout of 57% in the 2012 elections, there were 34 so-called 'triangular' runoffs. Meanwhile, according to The Guardian, in 2017, when turnout was 49%, there was only one, and last time around in 2022 there were eight on a turnout of just 47%. The previous record was 76, in 1997.
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