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

LONDON/BRUSSELS: Many of France’s allies breathed a sigh of relief that the worst had been averted after Marine Le Pen’s far-right failed to win Sunday’s snap election, but they noted that a disorganized coalition led by a hung parliament could also spell trouble for Europe.

Le Pen’s Rally National (RN) was the favourite in the polls, raising the risk of forming the first far-right government in France since World War II and threatening to upend the economic and foreign policy of the eurozone’s second-largest economy.

Ukraine’s allies have been particularly concerned that a Le Pen-led government could turn soft on Moscow and cut military aid that Kiev has enjoyed since the Russian invasion in 2022, even though her party has recently said Russia poses a threat.

The National Assembly’s defeat signals at least a temporary backlash against the rise of the far right in Europe, but could herald a period of instability with a new government in an uneasy “cohabitation” with President Emmanuel Macron. “In Paris, enthusiasm, in Moscow, disappointment, in Kiev, relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Oct.

Macron called early elections in an attempt to regain the initiative from Le Pen, but his own party fell behind an alliance of left-wing parties that fared much better than expected to take first place. Some early reactions from abroad were jubilant that the immediate threat from a far-right government had been averted.

“The worst was avoided”

“The worst has been avoided,” said Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats in Germany, where the far right has also gained ground during the cost-of-living crisis.

“The president is politically weakened, even if he maintains a central role in the face of an unclear majority situation. Forming a government will be complicated,” Schmid told the Funke media group.

Forming a government will be “difficult” and the parties must show “flexibility” and “the ability to compromise,” said Schmid, whose country has long become accustomed to lengthy negotiations that have led to seemingly unwieldy coalitions.

Scholz’s government consists of his SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP. But French politics is not used to such arrangements.

“The crisis is not over, quite the contrary,” wrote the conservative German daily FAZ.

“France, and with it Europe, is heading towards a period of instability” with the prospect of “fragile government coalitions dependent on extremes and liable to collapse at any moment,” it added.

“Rejecting the Far Right”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Sunday praised France for “rejecting the far right” after a left-wing coalition was predicted to form the largest group in parliament in early general elections.

France has opted for “rejection of the far right” and “a social left that addresses people’s problems with serious and courageous policies,” the socialist prime minister wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Sanchez welcomed the shock result given this week’s UK general election results, which saw the centre-left Labour Party win a landslide victory over the Conservatives.

He said both countries “said YES to progress and social progress and NO to the rollback of rights and freedoms. You don’t make deals or govern with the far right.”

No group won an outright majority in the second round of France’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, but the estimated results were disappointing for the far-right National Rally, which won the first round on June 30.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance will have several dozen fewer members of parliament but has done better than expected.

“A huge relief”

Nikos Androulakis, leader of the Greek socialist party PASOK, said the French “have built a wall against the far right, racism and intolerance and have upheld the timeless principles of the French Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity.”

Colombia’s leftist president, Gustavo Petro, also congratulated the French for stopping Le Pen. “There are battles that last only a few days, but (that) define the fate of humanity. France has been through one of them,” he said.

An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called it a “huge relief” but added: “The question remains what this means for Europe on a day-to-day basis.”

Deep divisions

The election has split the French parliament into three large groups — the left, the centrists and the far right — which have different programs and no tradition of cooperation.

The left wants to cap the prices of basic goods such as fuel and food, raise the minimum wage and public sector workers’ salaries, at a time when France’s budget deficit already stands at 5.5% of GDP, more than EU rules allow.

“Goodbye, European deficit limits! (The government) will collapse in the blink of an eye. Poor France. It can console itself with (Kylian) Mbappé,” said Claudio Borghi, a senator from Italy’s right-wing League, referring to the French soccer star.

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

A Capital Economics note said France may have avoided the “worst possible outcome” for investors, which would have been Le Pen or the leftists winning a clear majority.

However, a divided parliament means it will be difficult for any government to make the budget cuts needed for France to comply with EU budget rules, the statement said.

“Meanwhile, the likelihood of a conflict between the French government (and other governments) and the EU over fiscal policy has increased now that the bloc’s budget rules have been reinstated,” the statement reads.

Leave a Comment