France’s Allies Relieved by Le Pen’s Loss but Ponder Future Steps

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen speaks to reporters after preliminary results in the second round of the early French parliamentary elections at the headquarters of her party, Rassemblement National (National Rally – RN), in Paris, France, July 7, 2024. Credit: Reuters Photo

London/Brussels: Many of France’s allies heaved a sigh of relief as Marine Le Pen’s far-right movement failed to clinch victory in Sunday’s snap election, averting fears of Europe’s second-largest economy being led by a far-right government since World War Two. However, concerns linger over potential complications from a hung parliament and the uncertainties of coalition governance.

Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) had been poised to lead the polls, raising concerns about significant shifts in economic and foreign policies within the euro zone. Specifically, allies of Ukraine had apprehensions that a Le Pen-led government might adopt a softer stance towards Moscow and reduce military support crucial since Russia’s 2022 invasion, although the RN later asserted Russia as a threat.

The defeat of the National Rally signals a temporary setback for the far-right surge in Europe but also ushers in a period of potential instability, with expectations of an uneasy coexistence between a new government and President Emmanuel Macron.

“In Paris there is enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” remarked Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on X.

President Macron called for the snap election to counter Le Pen’s momentum, yet his party trailed behind a leftist alliance that unexpectedly secured the top spot. Initial international reactions expressed relief that the immediate threat of a far-right government had been thwarted.

“The worst has been avoided,” stated Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesperson for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats in Germany, where the far-right has also gained ground amid economic challenges.

“The president is politically weakened, even if he retains a central role given the unclear majority situation. Forming a government will be complicated,” added Schmid in comments to the Funke media group.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s party congratulated the leftist alliance, known as the New Popular Front, for preventing the far-right from gaining power. Nikos Androulakis of Greece’s Socialist PASOK party praised the French electorate for defending the timeless principles of the French Republic against far-right ideologies.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, known for his leftist views, also extended congratulations, describing France’s electoral decision as pivotal for humanity’s future.

An EU official, speaking anonymously, expressed immense relief but cautioned that the implications for daily European governance remain uncertain.

The election results left the French parliament divided among three major factions – the left, the centrists, and the far-right – each with distinct agendas and no established history of collaboration. The left aims to control prices of essential commodities, increase minimum wages, and raise public sector salaries, despite France’s budget deficit already exceeding EU limits at 5.5% of GDP.

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

Other right-wing leaders voiced frustration with the election outcome. Andre Ventura, leader of Portugal’s far-right Chega party, labeled it a “disaster for the economy, tragedy for immigration, and setback for anti-corruption efforts.”

Analysts at Capital Economics noted that while France avoided the worst-case scenarios for investors, a fragmented parliament poses challenges for implementing necessary budget cuts to comply with EU fiscal rules.

“Moreover, the likelihood of France and other countries clashing with the EU over fiscal policy has risen with the reintroduction of the bloc’s budget rules,” the note added.

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