Le Pen’s National Rally wins seats, airtime and money in French vote

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally shattered a glass ceiling in Sunday’s French legislative elections — with an elevenfold increase to 89 seats that gives the party unprecedented power in the incoming National Assembly.

With 89 MPs, not only has Le Pen been resurrected — after keeping a low profile following her loss to President Emmanuel Macron — but the resurgent far-right party will become a parliamentary group for the first time since 1986.

“The people have chosen to send a very powerful group of National Rally MPs to the assembly … by far the most numerous of our political history,” a jubilant Le Pen told supporters and constituents in the northern town of Hénin-Beaumont on Sunday night. She announced Monday morning she wouldn’t take the helm of the party itself, in order to stay focused on her role as upcoming president of the parliamentary group, where she’ll sit as a one of the major forces in opposition.

The far-right party, which only had eight MPs in the last makeup of the French lower chamber, had fallen short of the 15-seat threshold political parties have to reach to form a parliamentary group in its last term. MPs who are not in groups have less speaking time, less means and less say in how the assembly operates. Groups also get office space and meeting rooms.

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With 89 seats, the National Rally will also be able to put forward a no-confidence vote. This could prove risky for Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government, which has a majority of MPs against it. It is also above the 60-seat bar needed to refer a passed bill to the Constitutional Court, which is able to censor texts it deems anti-constitutional.

Le Pen’s party has also bagged an actual jackpot, as the French state gives more money to parties that do well in elections. The party will receive about €10 million every year until 2027. At the end of 2020, the party had close to €24 million in debt, according to an official transparency report.

Even if Le Pen’s formation was expected to make significant gains in this election, the National Rally has beaten polls and its own expectations. Early Sunday, party members were aiming for about 40 seats, POLITICO’s Playbook Paris reported. The election’s single-constituency, two-round system is usually thought to benefit parties closer to the center, but it also makes seat projections somewhat hazardous, as individual races often depend on a few hundred, or even dozens of votes.