The champagne was on ice at the far-right National Rally's (RN) headquarters, but the celebratory mood swiftly turned to disbelief when the first projected results from Sunday's parliamentary election appeared on TV screens.

For days, Marine Le Pen had confidently predicted that her party would triumph with an outright majority and her protege Jordan Bardella would be prime minister. Instead, the National Rally was on course to come third, behind a left-wing alliance and President Emmanuel Macron's centrist bloc.

It was undone to a large extent by tactical dealmaking between centrist and leftist opponents, who pulled more than 200 candidates from three-way races to avoid splitting the anti-RN vote.