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Explained: The big names and main parties in France's snap elections

Emma Pearson
Emma Pearson - [email protected]
Explained: The big names and main parties in France's snap elections
Election posters in France. Photo: The Local

Following French elections can be a bewildering experience, wading through an alphabet soup of acronyms and unfamiliar names. Here's our guide to who is who in the 2024 snap parliamentary elections.

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France's snap elections have been described as the most consequential since the Second World War. And not just for the French - France's key position within the EU, status as a key military power in Europe and the country's financial clout mean that these results will have effects far beyond the French borders.

You can follow all the latest HERE, but here's a look at who's who in the elections.

READ MORE: French elections: What happens next as far-right lead in round one?

The parties

Let's start with the parties and political groups who are contesting the elections.

Renaissance - Emmanuel Macron's centrist party, previously named La république en marche (LREM) and before that En Marche. For the sake of convenience, they're often referred to simply as Macronistes

Ensemble - within the parliament, Macron's party has been party of a coalition with other centrist parties (more on them below) known as Ensemble (together). In some constituencies, centrist candidates appear on the election posters as Ensemble or Ensemble pour la république.

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Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) - the newly created alliance of leftist parties. The name references the Front Populaire, a left-wing coalition that briefly held power in France in the 1930s. Within the alliance are four parties;

La France Insoumise (LFI) - translating as 'France unbowed' this is the far-left party founded by Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Parti Socialiste (PS) - the centre-left party. One of two that dominated French politics in the post-war period, producing presidents François Mitterand and François Hollande, these days it is much reduced. Current leader - Olivier Faure.

Les écologistes - the green party. Previously Europe Ecologie Les Verts, sometimes still referred to as EELV or Les Verts. 

Parti Communiste français (PCF) - the communist party. Greatly diminished from its heyday in the 1950s and 60s, the party remains a force at a local level and has 22 MPs in the outgoing parliament. Lead by Fabien Roussel.

Rassemblement National (RN) - the far-right party. Founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen under the name Front National, the party changed its name to Rassemblement National (national rally) after Le Pen's daughter Marine took over. She remains the party's presidential candidate but the party leader - and RN prime minister if the party wins a majority - is Jordan Bardella.

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Les républicains (LR) - the second of the two parties that dominated post war politics (party of Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac and political heirs of Charles de Gaulle) this party too is greatly diminished. Originally centre right, it has moved sharply to the right in recent years under leader Eric Ciotti. Ciotti created an electoral alliance with the far-right RN which horrified many party members - it resulted in a split with around 60 LR candidates standing as part of the alliance and 400 candidates standing against the far-right in the first round of voting.

The group that is part of the Ciotti/RN alliance is known as Les Républicains à droite or Les amis de Ciotti (Ciotti's friends - yes, really).

The above are the biggest parties and alliances, but there are others standing.

Reconquête - the 'reconquest' party is extreme right, founded in 2022 by TV presenter Eric Zemmour who regarded Le Pen as no longer being far enough to the right. Has many of the same immigration policies as RN but tends to lean more heavily into 'culture war' topics such as trans rights and left bias in schools.

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Modem - the original centrist party headed by François Bayrou, now part of the Ensemble alliance with Macron's party

Horizons - new centrists founded by Macron's former prime minister Edouard Philippe, who is strongly tipped to be the centrist candidate in the 2027 presidential elections when Macron himself cannot stand again. Also part of the Ensemble alliance, for now.

Lutte ouvrière - the 'workers struggle' party is far to the left, headed up by high school teacher Nathalie Arthaud

Union des démocrates et indépendants (UDI) - while it sounds like something you might have inserted by a gynaecologist, UDI is in fact a centre-right group founded in 2012. They've become more prominent at this election through allying with some of the Les Républicains candidates who are not part of the far-right alliance (essentially trying to regain some space on the centre right which has been squeezed by the Macronists). Part of Ensemble.

Divers gauche/ divers droite - these are the candidates of the left/ right who are not aligned with any of the above groups (for either personal or political reasons)

Sans etiquette - a candidate standing as an independent is known as 'sans etiquette' (literally 'no label').

The people

Here's a look at the most prominent names who are likely to feature

Emmanuel Macron - current president of France and head of the centrist group. Because this election is a parliamentary, not presidential, election he remains president whatever the results. He may, however, be forced to work with a prime minister from a different political party if his group loses the election.

READ MORE: Will the French far-right get a majority in parliament?

Gabriel Attal - current prime minister. If Macron's centrists lose the election he will be the one to lose his job. As prime minister he, rather than the president, is technically in charge of the election campaign. At 35 years old he is France's youngest prime minister (so far) and was generally seen as a Macron protege, although was reportedly furious at his boss' decision to call this surprise election.

Marine Le Pen - leader of the far-right Rassemblement National party and the party's likely candidate in the next presidential elections (scheduled for 2027). Inherited the party leadership from her dad and has worked hard to try and 'detoxify' the party's image, albeit without changing its key policies with regards to race and immigration. Failed presidential candidate in 2017 and 2022.

Jordan Bardella - president of the Rassemblement National party and its likely prime minister should the party win an election. The 28-year-old has been a full-time politician since finishing university and is the former partner of Marine Le Pen's niece.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon - founder of the hard left La France Insoumise. Although no longer the party head he is still a big influence within the group, however is a divisive figure even on the left due to various disagreements within his own party and the wider alliance.

François Ruffin - a member of La France Insoumise, albeit one who has decisively split with Mélenchon during this election campaign and has said that it is Mélenchon himself who is putting off many people from voting for the left alliance. One of many candidates now vying for the leadership of the wide-ranging leftist alliance.

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