Eight questions about Sunday’s French elections

Will the RN get into power? How should people vote? Will Jordan Bardella become PM?

The second round of France’s legislative elections are set to take place this Sunday (July 7)

The second round of France’s legislative elections are set to take place this Sunday (July 7), after the far-right Rassemblement National (and allies) won in the first round.

The left-wing alliance came in second place (after the RN’s 33% win), and President Macron’s party came in third, in the first round of elections on Sunday, June 30.

However, an outright win for the RN is not a foregone conclusion in the second round, as many candidates have tactically withdrawn in a bid to block the RN from taking a majority in the Assemblée. 

The Prime Minister has also called for voters to block the RN.

How many MPs still remain to be elected?

A total of 501 MPs are still to be elected, out of a total of 577 seats. There are just over 1,100 candidates still set to stand on Sunday. 76 MPs were directly elected after gaining more than 50% of the votes in the first round.

Of these, 39 are backed by the Rassemblement National and its allies, and 31 by the Nouveau Front Populaire. The other MPs were from Ensemble ! (ruling party), the centre and Les Républicains.

How many candidates withdrew?

A total of 221 third place candidates withdrew in tactical areas, in a bid to prevent the far-right from obtaining an absolute majority, heeding calls from the Macron camp and others to do so.

The large number of withdrawals mean that just 108 ‘triangular’ (three-candidate) options remain for the second round (where there are three candidates still standing).

More than 400 ‘duels’ (where two candidates are still standing) remain.

A ‘duel’ makes it easier for voters to oust the RN candidate, as they can target their anti-RN vote on a single candidate, rather than risking splitting the vote across two or more opponents.

How many ‘triangular’ and ‘quadrangular’ situations remain?

Only one ‘quadrangle’ (four candidates) remains, in Vendée, where the Renaissance and NFP candidates, who came third and fourth behind the outgoing right-wing MP and the RN candidate, have refused to withdraw.

In 64 ‘triangular’ options, one of the candidates is from the Rassemblement National, meaning that voters will have to choose between an RN candidate and two from other parties. 

Will voters seek to block the Rassemblement National? 

So far, it seems that voters are increasingly reluctant to use their ballot paper purely to block the Rassemblement National, despite calls from the ruling party to do so.

"It obviously doesn't please many French people to have to block the RN by using another ballot paper that they wouldn't have wanted to. [But] I think it's our responsibility to do so,” said Prime Minister Gabriel Attal this week on France Inter radio.

Similarly, former PM and current MP for Le Havre, Edouard Philippe said on TF1 that he would vote for “a Communist candidate" over an RN candidate, even though he would have “differences” to them, because "I prefer an elected official who I can work with…and who seems to me to meet a democratic requirement that I share”. 

However, Mr Phillippe stopped short of outright telling voters to block the RN, while Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has also refused to ‘tell’ voters what to do.

In contrast, RN president Jordan Bardella, who could become prime minister if his party wins, has unsurprisingly said that voting for the RN is a "show of courage” and “acting in the national interest”.

What are some key constituency fights?

Several MPs and current ministers are facing a fight with incoming RN candidates. 

This includes Stanislas Guérini, who is twelve points behind a Green MP in Paris, and Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who is facing an RN candidate in Pas-de-Calais, after they won by 15 points in the first round.

François Ruffin in Somme is six points behind the RN candidate there, who received more than 40% of the vote in the first round. 

The Les Républicains leader Olivier Marleix took just 25.93% of the vote in the first round, and is facing RN candidate Olivier Dubois, who took a far higher 38%.

Will the RN get into power? 

This is not yet clear. To get an absolute majority in parliament (the Assemblée Nationale), a party must win 289 seats (out of 577 in total). 

The RN’s Jordan Bardella has said that he will not take the post of prime minister if he does not win an absolute majority (ie. if the RN gets fewer than 289 seats). He has said he does not want ‘an illusion of power’ if, in reality, his party cannot pass legislation. 

However, Marine Le Pen has also said that if the RN came close to this figure (such as, for example, 270 seats or more), they would seek to work with other MPs to gain a working majority.Mr Macron is rumoured to have said that he would consider Mr Bardella as Prime minister if the RN reaches 250.

If the RN does not get a strong majority, Macron’s coalition could seek to form a larger coalition with some centre-right MPs from rival parties, although it is unlikely that the leading opposition parties such as LFI (La France Insoumise) would join, making this more difficult. 

This will likely lead to a ‘hung parliament’ situation, in which no one group has a majority, and parties must seek coalitions of sorts in order to govern. This is relatively common in other European countries, but has historically been rare in France.

What happens after the election? 

Constitutionally, the new Assemblée Nationale must meet on the second Thursday after the election. This would be July 18. The first session will open at 15:00, and elect the new assembly president.

The next day, the new house will elect its vice-presidents and secretaries, and allocate them to standing committees. A two-week parliamentary session is then set to begin.

Can President Macron dissolve parliament again? 

Mr Macron is not allowed to dissolve the French parliament upon the election results, as the Constitution only allows one dissolution per year. This is to stop repeated dissolutions; a practice that was commonplace under the previous Constitution (1946-1958).

This means that the president will have to come to terms with the new MPs, and form a working government for at least one year before he can consider dissolution again. 

The next dissolution can only happen on July 7, 2025 at the earliest.