According to results issued by the French Interior Ministry, the far-right National Rally party has garnered 23,31 percent of votes in the European elections on Sunday, ahead of the centrist LREM-Modem on 22,41 percent. This will transform into 22 and 21 seats in Parliament, and 23 each after Brexit.
National Rally leader Marine Le Pen reacted immediately by saying that "President Emmanuel Macron has no choice but to dissolve the National Assembly" in the face of what was clearly a "democratic defeat."
She said it "a victory for the people, who have taken back the power with pride and dignity" and reiterated her call for a voting system that allowed better representation for national deputies.
Her party's victory was just one of the many examples of a gains made by populist and nationalist groups in these elections.
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the results confirmed the "redrawing" of French politics, which was evident in the presidential election in 2017 when France's traditional parties were eclipsed by Macron's new centrist movement and the far-right.
Green message received loud and clear
"The time is for action because the French people will judge us ultimately on one thing: results," Philippe said in a televised statement.
He also said the government had "received a message about the ecological emergency" after France's main green party, EELV, which finished in third place on 13,47% percent of the vote compared with 8.9 percent in 2014.
Although the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) remains the largest bloc, projected to win 179 seats, its score is down from the 216 in 2014. The Socialists and Democrats looked set to drop to 150 seats from 191.
Turnout was the highest for 20 years, at 50,12 percent.
The mainstream parties are now vying between themselves for influence over the choice of a new generation of top EU officials, including the powerful president of the European Commission.
EU leaders have been invited to a summit on Tuesday to decide how to choose the nominee.