Paris: Dozens of protesters gathered in the French capital on Sunday evening following the initial results of the first round of a parliamentary election which tipped Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) as the winner. Protesters set off flares in Paris as they marched through the city’s streets, past smoking tear gas canisters and flaming trash cans-- a situation that French President Emmanuel Macron warned earlier last week. Macron had said that a victory for the far left or the far right in this month’s snap election could spark a “civil war.”

The RN was seen winning around 34% of the vote, exit polls from Ipsos, Ifop, OpinionWay and Elabe showed, in a huge setback for President Emmanuel Macron who had called the snap election after his ticket was trounced by the RN in the European Parliament elections earlier this month.

The RN's chances of winning power next week will depend on the political dealmaking made by its rivals over the coming days. In the past, centre-right and centre-left parties have teamed up to keep the RN from power, but that dynamic, known as the "republican front," is less certain than ever.

Macron and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal urged voters to rally against the far right in the second round. Addressing a jubilant crowd waving French tricolour flags of blue, white and red, Le Pen called on her supporters and voters that didn't back her party in the first round to push it over the line and give it a commanding legislative majority.

In that scenario, Le Pen's 28-year-old protege, Jordan Bardella, would become prime minister. Macron, who has said he will not step down before his term expires in 2027, would be forced into an awkward power-sharing arrangement called “ cohabitation” in France. Still, the National Rally isn't there yet.

Although polling agency projections gave it around one-third of the national vote on Sunday, it remains unclear how the party's surge will translate into actual seats in round two. Some polling agency projections indicated that in the best-case scenario for the far right, the National Rally and its allies could collectively clear the bar of 289 seats needed for a secure majority in the 577-seat National Assembly. That could spook European financial markets, affect Western support for Ukraine and the management of France’s nuclear arsenal and global military force.

But, depending on how the second round shakes out, the far right could also fall short, with no single bloc securing a clear majority, polling agencies projected. Predictions are difficult because of the two-round voting system, and because parties will work between the rounds to make alliances in some constituencies or pull out of others. Early official results for the first round were expected later Sunday.

Why Did French Voters Ditch Macron?

Many French voters are frustrated about inflation and other economic concerns, as well as Macron’s leadership, seen as arrogant and out-of-touch with their lives. The National Rally party has tapped that discontent, notably via online platforms such as TikTok. Voters in Paris had issues including immigration and the rising cost of living on their minds as the country grew more divided between the far-right and far-left blocs, with a deeply unpopular and weakened president in the political centre. The campaign was marred by rising hate speech.

Macron called the early elections after his party was trounced in the European Parliament election earlier in June by the National Rally, which has historic ties to racism and antisemitism and is hostile toward France’s Muslim community. It also has historical ties to Russia. Macron's call was an audacious gamble that French voters who were complacent about the European election would be jolted into turning out for moderate forces in national elections to keep the far right out of power.

(With Inputs From Agency)