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Macron seeks to build alliance to stop far-right taking power in France

01 Jul 2024 5 minute read
Marine le Pen (CC BY 3.0 NO). Picture by Marie-Lan Nguyen. Right, Emmanuel Macron. Picture by European Parliament (CC BY 2.0).

Luke James

French President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to cooperate with some left-wing candidates to stop the far-right taking power after Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) won the first round of parliamentary elections.

The National Rally won 34% of votes, putting them on course to win between 230 and 280 seats – up to three times more than they won in 2022 but still short of a majority in the 577 seat National Assembly.

Rising support for the far-right had already persuaded a wide range of left-wing parties, from ardent anti-capitalists to social democrat reformists, to come together in the Nouveau Front Populaire (New Popular Front).

They came second with 29%, an increase of 4 points from 2022 which pollster IPSOS believes will earn them between 125 and 165 seats.

But the scale of National Rally’s victory last night immediately led to calls for the Popular Front to be expanded to a “Republican Front” which also encompasses the governing Ensemble (Together) coalition which won 21% of the vote.

Any candidate which receives 12.5% or more in the first round of voting is allowed to stand in the decisive second round which will take place next Sunday.

There are around 250 seats where three candidates have qualified for the second round.

Stand down

Jean-Luc Melechon said though that La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), which is the largest party in the New Popular Front, would stand down its candidates in the seats where it finished third in order to avoid splitting the vote of democratic parties.

President Macron joined the call for a “a broad, clearly democratic and republican alliance for the second round”. In a televised address, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said “it is our moral duty to stop the worst from happening.”

However, a statement issued by their party said that their candidates would withdraw only in favour of those who hold the “values of the Republic”, which some interpreted as a suggestion the liberals could exclude some candidates from France Unbowed.

Macron’s former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe called for no votes to go to either the National Rally or France Unbowed in the second round.

Before joining Macron’s government, he was previously a member of the French conservative party, The Republicans, which refused to endorse the Republican Front after winning 10% of votes.

The party’s leader, Eric Ciotti, was expelled just weeks before the election for suggesting they should even stand on a joint platform with the National Rally.

Reform

Le Pen’s party won its strongest support in the north east of France. Mirroring the progress made by Reform in the valleys, areas which were once strongholds of the left which have reacted to being left behind by deindustrialisation by turning to the far-right.

Fabien Roussel, the leader of the Community party who was last year polling as the most popular politician on the left in France, lost his seat in the first round after the National Rally won more than 50% of the vote.

The far-right also continues to be strong in parts of the Mediterranean coast, including northern Catalonia. It won one of the four constituencies in the first round and came first in the other three.

Unlike in 2022, they will face candidates from the New Popular Front in the second round after they leapfrogged candidates from Macron’s coalition into second place.

The New Popular Front also made progress in the northern Basque Country, where the coalition included a candidate from the Basque autonomist party EH Bai (Basque Country Yes).

The left only held one of the three constituencies going into this election and the National Rally had topped the poll in this area at the European elections earlier this month.

Basque left

Last night they came in first place in all three constituencies. Peio Dufau of EH Bai who stood for the New Popular Front told Nation.Cymru: “There was always a separation between the ‘French’ left and the Basque left even though the concerns and priorities were almost the same.

“It was obvious we needed to unite the left to try and offer an alternative to the Basque Country.”

However, the far-right made gains in places which had previously been seen as no-go areas for them.

The National Rally didn’t win enough votes to make the final round in a single constituency in Brittany or Corsica in 2022.

“The strong Breton identity weakens certain arguments from the RN about supposed threats to French identity,” said Professor Arnauld Leclerc of Nantes University at the time. “This is without a doubt also true in Corsica and the Basque Country.”

The National Rally made a breakthrough in both Brittany and Corsica yesterday.

In Brittany, it came first in five constituencies and qualified for the second round elsewhere. Fears were raised before the vote that candidate selections made centrally in Paris and overlooked local factors could “gift” seats to the far-right.

In Corsica, National Rally have qualified for the second round in all four and are ahead in two. In the second round they will face Corsican autonomists. French left-wing parties did not stand on a joint ticket on the island.

The races will be crucial in deciding if France will have a far-right government after next Sunday’s second round of voting.
Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst of European politics for the Eurasia Group, said Le Pen’s party will struggle to form a majority but predicted the results will leave France “close to ungovernable.”

“If these results are confirmed next Sunday, Le Pen’s failure to seize power is likely to prove an existential crisis delayed, rather than avoided.”

Read more: Basque and French left unite for first time to take on rising far-right threat


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

Look what happens without the steadying hand of the UK…joke…

Three score and ten; not just a lifespan but the attention span of the present ruling bipeds…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

Steve Bannon, Fat Shanks’ mate and mentor (July 2018) is packing his bag ready for prison…and this is the guy, the brains behind Trump, who told Fat Shanks how to rule the UK and excited Truss and the Tory benches…we will be well rid of them…spare a thought for Bangor Aberconwy…

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