No single party has managed to gain an absolute majority in the French parliamentary vote, leading to an unprecedented political situation in the country and dealing a severe blow to French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling centrist alliance.
The newly-formed left-wing alliance and far-right recorded considerable gains in Sunday’s election, in a stunning setback to the party that has held a commanding majority for the last five years in the French parliament.
Initial projections by pollsters Ifop, OpinionWay, Elabe, and Ipsos showed Macron's centrist Ensemble (Together) alliance winning 230-250 seats, the left-wing NUPES alliance securing 141-175, and Les Republicains 60-75.
However, Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally, or RN) made historic gains in Sunday’s elections, exceeding early predictions by winning 90 seats.
RN’s performance at 90 seats is a “seismic event; an extraordinary result for them,” Paul Smith, a professor of French politics at Nottingham University, was quoted as saying.
“There were no polls predicting this and I haven’t seen anybody predicting it."
Macron, who had been planning to raise the retirement age and further deepen EU integration, could eventually call a snap election if he fails to form a new coalition government, according to reports.
Meantime, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called the elections' result a "democratic shock".
“I appeal to everyone’s sense of responsibility. We must avoid a deadlock,” said finance minister Le Maire after the vote, stressing the need for “listening” and “dialogue” among “men and women who share the president’s project”.
"The result is a risk for our country in view of the challenges we have to face," Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said while adding that from Monday on, Macron's camp will work to seek alliances.
Leftwing Liberation called the result "a slap" for Macron, and economic daily Les Echos "an earthquake."
"The rout of the presidential party is complete and there is no clear majority in sight," hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon told cheering supporters.
In April, Macron became the first French president in two decades to win a second term, as voters rallied to keep the far-right out of power.
Two months after being re-elected, Macron failed to convince voters to give him the “solid majority” he asked for.
Macron, who many people see as a leader out of touch with reality, presides over a deeply disenchanted and divided country where support for the extreme left and rightwing political groups is on the rise.
As in the first round, more than half of eligible voters stayed away from the polls on Sunday.
With turnout at 46 percent, electoral participation took a dip since last weekend, frustrating the left’s hopes of rallying France’s disenchanted.