Voters for French far-right say ‘dirty tricks’ won election


Ido Vock/BBC Corrine and Sylvie backed the Rassemblement National, which came third in Sunday's election Ido Vock/BBC

Corrine and Sylvie backed the Rassemblement National, which came third in Sunday’s election

“Victory was stolen from them using dirty tricks,” Corrine said as her children played in a playground in Eysines, a suburb of Bordeaux in France.

She couldn’t hide her disappointment that the party she backs, the far right Rassemblement National, came just third in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

“We were hoping for change and an RN government,” her friend Sylvie added. “Now we will have to put up with whatever comes next.”

Until Sunday, this constituency was held by the RN’s Grégoire de Fournas. He became one of the previous parliament’s most infamous members after shouting “they should go back to Africa” as a black colleague talked about a migrant rescue boat in 2022.

But Mr de Fournas was narrowly defeated by Pascale Got, a candidate of the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP), as part of a shock wave of successes for the alliance.

An emotional Mrs Got responded to the results by saying that the new parliament needed to “listen to what the French people want” and offer “progress and social justice”.

Ido Vock/BBC Campaign posters in Bordeaux Ido Vock/BBC

Campaign posters in Bordeaux

Though the RN made gains nationally, it came in third behind the NFP and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ensemble alliance, largely because of tactical withdrawals to concentrate the anti-far right vote.

RN president Jordan Bardella, who had hoped to be prime minister if his party won the election, claimed that the far right only lost because almost every other party in French politics, ranging from Marxists to right-wing economic liberals, united against it.

Shortly after polls closed, he condemned what he called an “alliance of dishonour” between the NFP and Ensemble, which both withdrew candidates in some contests to defeat the far right.

“An unnatural alliance prevented the French people from freely choosing a different type of politics,” he added.

Luna Aimé, an RN activist, said: “Nine parties had to join together to beat one, which still increased its number of MPs.”

The sense that the RN was prevented from winning by trickery resonated among its voters.

“I had a feeling that the RN would be blocked from winning. But I didn’t expect this many losses,” Sylvie, a friend of Corinne’s, said.

Ido Vock/BBC Soufiane outside a cafe in FranceIdo Vock/BBC

Soufiane said he is ‘very happy’ that De Fournas lost

Corrine said the party had suffered a “huge defeat,” even though increased its number of MPs from 89 to 143, its best result in history. It is now only slightly smaller than the other two blocs.

Her statement reflected the high expectations – played up by the RN before the vote – that it would be in a position to appoint a prime minister and govern France for the first time in the party’s history.

With the results nonetheless showing a big advance for the RN across France, party leader Marine Le Pen said victory for her party had been “merely deferred”.

Mr de Fournas thanked the 49% of voters in his constituency who had backed him and said: “Fixing the country will take a little longer than expected but it is certain that we will come to power one day.”

But many in the constituency were relieved that Mr de Fournas and the RN more broadly had been held off, at least for the time being.

Outside a cafe, Soufiane said France had always been and should remain a country where cultures mixed together.

He said: “De Fournas is a racist. When you tell a person of colour to go back to Africa, that says everything.

“I’m very happy that he lost.”


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