French election yields deadlock as left surges and far right comes up short

PARIS — France faced a hung parliament and deep political uncertainty after the three main political groups of the left, center and right emerged from snap legislative elections Sunday with large shares of the vote but nothing approaching an absolute majority.

The preliminary results upended widespread predictions of a clear victory for the National Rally, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant party that dominated the first round of voting a week ago. Instead, the left-wing New Popular Front won 178 seats.

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The centrist coalition of President Emmanuel Macron, who cast the country into turmoil a month ago by calling the election, was in second place with 150 seats. Trailing it was the National Rally and its allies, which took 142 seats.

The results were compiled by The New York Times using data from the Interior Ministry, and they confirmed earlier projections showing that no single party or bloc would win a majority.

The details of the outcome may still shift, but it is clear that, to a remarkable degree, a scramble by centrists and the left to form a “Republican front” to confront the National Rally in the second round of voting worked. Candidates across France dropped out of three-way races and called for unity against Le Pen’s party.

“The president now has the duty to call the New Popular Front to govern,” said Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left leader who is the charismatic but polarizing voice of the left-wing alliance. “We are ready.”

But France looked near ungovernable, with the Paris Olympics to open in less than three weeks. The left surged, the National Rally added dozens of seats to its presence in the National Assembly, and Macron’s party suffered a stinging defeat, with the 250 seats held by his party and its allies in the National Assembly cut by about one-third.

The result was that in the sharply divided lower house of parliament, where most legislative power resides, no governing coalition appeared immediately conceivable, with Macron’s centrists squeezed between far-right and far-left groups that detest each other and him.

Nothing had obliged Macron to call the snap election, but he was ready to gamble he could still be a unifying figure against the extremes. In fact, he had lost the allure to do so over seven years in office. He declared left and right to be obsolete labels when he came to power in 2017. They no longer are.

Still, Macron’s centrist alliance did better than expected at the last and he lived to fight another day.

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