France's far right 'sad and disappointed' over election result

The champagne was on ice, the jazz was on low: the scene was set at the pavilion in Paris’s Bois de Vincennes forest where the National Rally (RN) was staging what it hoped would be its victory rally.

Hundreds of journalists had come from across the world, the sniffer dogs in place to protect a party that was, we all thought, at the gates of power; the first time the far right would enter government in France since World War Two.

But as time ticked towards the exit poll at 8pm, the mood began to turn. Party apparatchiks talked in hushed tones of indications they had fallen short. Nervous glances were exchanged, the glasses looked more half-empty than half-full.

And then the screens told the story: of the National Rally beaten into third place by the left and by President Macron’s centrists. There was stunned silence – and then a smattering of applause by party supporters to try to keep spirits up.

“We are sad, disappointed, struck down by this result,” said Rosa Gave, as she clutched a French flag.

“We are victims of a dishonest alliance led by Macron to block us from power.”

man preparing champagneman preparing champagne

National Rally had champagne on ice, but the result was not one many observers predicted [BBC]

That “alliance” was more of a pact, struck in the last week by opponents of the National Rally – that in many of the three-way races where the RN was in the lead, the third candidate would withdraw, urging voters to rally behind the figure best-placed to stop the far-right. And it worked. It’s a common electoral tactic here – but has still drawn the ire of the RN.

As Jordan Bardella, the party’s 28-year-old president – and the man who had hoped to become France’s prime minister – arrived, there were cheers from the dwindling crowd inside.

“Depriving millions of French people of the possibility of seeing their ideas brought to power will never be a viable destiny for France”, he said.

He denounced President Emmanuel Macron for, in his words, pushing France towards instability – and into the arms of what he called the “extreme left”: a reference to France Unbowed, the party leading the victorious left-wing coalition.

And then came Marine Le Pen, the National Rally’s leader, whose dream of national power has once again been thwarted at the eleventh hour. She was thronged by journalists, as her supporters chanted “Marine, Présidente!” A couple of reporters were pushed over in the melee.

“The tide is rising – our victory has only been delayed,” she said, calling President Macron’s position “untenable”.

Marine Le Pen addresses journalists after the second round of voting.Marine Le Pen addresses journalists after the second round of voting.

National Rally’s leader, Marine Le Pen, says victory is just delayed. [EPA]

The president who came to power promising to revive the centre ground, to bridge right and left, has done anything but – pushing the French to the extremes. And while many in the National Rally will feel bitterly disappointed that their victory in the first round of this election did not lead them to power after the second, they will be cheering a significant increase in the number of their MPs since the last parliamentary election, confident that one day their time will come.

“France has chosen the coalition of the worst,” said Matteo Giammaresi, a National Rally supporter, holding his champagne glass on a rapidly emptying dancefloor.

“What we say now is giving France hope for the future.”

The party will now wait this government out, believing that division and disunity will play into Marine Le Pen’s hands. And then, at the 2027 presidential election, she would be able to say – this is what happens when we are blocked from power.

What government now emerges is still deeply unclear.

A hung parliament awaits – and potential paralysis. France has been plunged into the political unknown – just not in the way pollsters predicted.

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