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French Far Right Fails to Capture a Majority in the National Assembly

Yesterday, France had the second round of parliamentary elections. France uses a district system, like the U.S. House and British House of Commons. Any candidate who got 12.5% or more of registered voters in the first round was allowed to compete in the second round. However, Emmanuel Macron's centrist party and a coalition of leftist parties made a deal that in districts with both of their candidates running against a candidate from Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally, one of them would drop out to prevent the National Rally candidate from winning with a bare plurality. Therefore, over 200 candidates who qualified dropped out last week.

It worked. Sort of. The leftist coalition, called the New Popular Front, is projected to get 182 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, the lower and far more powerful chamber of the French parliament. Macron's party, Ensemble ("together"), is expected to get 163 seats. The National Rally is expected to come in third with 143 seats. This is what the Brits would call a hung parliament. No one saw this result coming, in part because no one thought the center and left parties could get their act together and have the weaker candidate withdraw in nearly every district.

There were cheers on the streets of Paris as the projections came in. Parisians had zero interest in a far-right parliament, and that seems to have been averted. That doesn't mean everything is unicorns and rainbows. The center and left parties agree that having National Rally in power would be a disaster for France. The trouble is, that is practically the only thing they agree on. With three roughly equal blocs in the Assembly, governing is going to be nearly impossible for Macron, whose term runs until 2027.

As an aside, the French voting system is a bit antiquated. There is no absentee voting and no early voting. Nor are there voting machines. Each voter puts a paper ballot in an envelope and drops it into a transparent sealed box. When the polls close, the box is unsealed, the envelopes opened, and the votes are counted by hand. (V)

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