Foreign Policy Watch: India-France

An overview of the French elections


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Election of French President

Mains level: Impact of French on India

Why in the news? 

On June 30, during the first phase of the French elections called after President Emmanuel Macron unexpectedly dissolved parliament, the far-right National Rally (RN) and its allies emerged as frontrunners with a 33% vote share.

Why did French President Emmanuel Macron decide to dissolve parliament and call for snap elections?

  • Strategic Decision: Macron dissolved parliament three years early to seek a clear majority for governance. His centrist bloc suffered a major defeat in the European Parliament elections against the RN. The decision aimed to consolidate votes against the rising far-right influence.
  • Low Approval Ratings: Macron’s approval ratings plummeted to 36%. The snap election was seen as a gamble to prevent the RN from gaining more power.

How did the far-right National Rally become so popular?

  • Rebranding and Policy Changes: Under Marine Le Pen, the RN rebranded from the National Front (FN). The party softened its stance on extreme policies, like leaving the EU.
  • Response to Societal Issues: Capitalized on fears of cultural clashes, cost-of-living crises, and dissatisfaction with Macron’s policies. Opposed immigration and advocated for ‘national priority’ policies favoring French citizens in social services.
  • Political Strategy: Increased its presence in provincial towns and among blue-collar workers. Rose from 7 seats to 89 in the French parliament in 2022, aiming for 240-300 seats now.

How are the two rounds of elections conducted in France?

  • First Phase: Equivalent to a qualifying round where candidates need at least 12.5% of locally registered votes.Candidates who get more than half the votes win outright.
  • Second Phase: Candidates meeting the qualifying criteria move to the second round. Common practice of ‘horse-trading’ where parties form alliances to avoid splitting votes.
  • Overall Structure:577 seats in the French parliament. A party needs 289 seats for an absolute majority.

Why have left-wing parties also formed a bloc?

  • Republican Front Strategy: Centrist and left-wing parties team up to prevent right-wing parties from gaining power.Formation of the New Popular Front is a reference to the 1936 alliance against far-right rioters.
  • Electoral Tactics: Over 200 candidates from centre and left alliances have dropped out to consolidate votes against the RN. Aimed at countering the RN’s rise and preventing fragmentation of the anti-RN vote.
  • Challenges and Unity: Presence of controversial leftist figures like Jean-Luc Mélenchon has made the unity fragile.Despite internal differences, the bloc aims to present a united front against the far-right surge.

Conclusion: The rise of the far-right National Rally in France may lead to stricter immigration policies, affecting Indian students, workers, and diaspora. Economic relations could face uncertainties, impacting trade and bilateral cooperation. So,India’s diplomatic strategies may need adjustments to navigate the changing political landscape in France.

Mains PYQ: 

Q Critically examine the procedures through which the Presidents of India and France are elected. (UPSC IAS/2022)

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