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Tensions flare between far right, Macron camp ahead of France vote

todayJune 27, 2024 5

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A photograph of monitors in a media control room at AFP headquarters in Paris, displays (From L) French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party President and lead MEP Jordan Bardella, France’s Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and French MP of left wing party La France Insoumise (LFI) Manuel Bompard during a political debate broadcasted on French TV channel TF1, on June 25, 2024, ahead of France’s snap elections for a new national assembly on June 30 and July 7, 2024. (Photo by Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP) (Photo by STEFANO RELLANDINI/AFP via Getty Images)






By Paul Aubriat, Tom Barfield and Stuart Williams



Tensions soared on Thursday between supporters of Emmanuel Macron and the French far-right after its longtime leader Marine Le Pen cast doubt on the president’s ability to act as head of the armed forces after legislative elections.

The far-right National Rally (RN) is tipped to win the election, potentially giving Le Pen’s party the post of prime minister for the first time in its history in a tense “cohabitation” with centrist Macron.

Three days before the first round of the vote on June 30, Macron’s centrist alliance is battling to make up ground. But polls suggest it will come third behind the RN and the New Popular Front (NFP) left-wing coalition.

The party chief of the RN, Jordan Bardella, 28, would have a chance to lead a government as prime minister.

But he has insisted he will only do this if it wins an absolute majority of the 577 seats in the National Assembly.

Friends and foes of Macron alike are still scratching their heads over why the president called a poll in the aftermath of its heavy defeat in this month’s EU elections.

Le Pen told the Telegramme daily that the president’s title as commander-in-chief of the armed forces was “honorific, because it’s the prime minister who holds the purse strings”.

Therefore, “on Ukraine, the president will not be able to send troops”, she added, undermining Macron’s warning to Moscow that France would keep all options on the table to thwart Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

Francois Bayrou, a heavyweight former minister who heads a party allied to Macron, said Le Pen’s remarks were a “deep challenge to the constitution”.

“What arrogance of Marine Le Pen to consider that the RN has already won the elections… What arrogance to want to systematically rewrite the constitution in advance,” Europe Minister Jean-Noel Barrot told television station TF1.

Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu wrote on X: “The Constitution is not honorific.”

Attending a European summit in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was confident that, whatever the composition of France’s next government, it would be pro-European and independent from Russian influence.

“We believe that the French will continue to support Ukraine regardless of the political situation,” Zelensky told AFP in written comments.

Macron, who has emerged as a champion of Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion in recent months, has insisted he will serve out the remainder of his second term until it expires in 2027.

Le Pen, who opponents have long accused of having too cosy a relationship with the Kremlin, may well feel that that will be her best-ever chance to win the Elysee Palace.

It will be her fourth bid for the top job.

When he called the snap poll after a June 9 European Parliament election drubbing by the RN, Macron had hoped to present voters with a stark choice about whether to hand France to the far right.

But the lightning three-week campaign “wasn’t going to turn around the major trends”, Brice Teinturier, deputy director of pollster Ipsos, told Le Monde daily.

One poll by Ipsos published in Le Monde said that the RN would win 36 percent of the vote, the NFP 29 percent and Macron’s alliance just 19.5.

Analysts say a possible outcome of the second round of voting on July 7 will be a parliament unable to produce a stable majority to govern the European Union’s second economy and its top military power.

Hoping to defy the odds, current incumbent Gabriel Attal — named months ago by Macron as France’s youngest-ever PM — will take on Bardella and Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure in a TV debate on Thursday evening.

It will be one of his last chances to convince voters, as campaigning is officially suspended on Saturday and during voting Sunday.

Underlining the stakes felt by many in France from ethnic minority backgrounds, French basketball superstar Victor Wembanyama said “for me it is important to take a distance from extremes, which are not the direction to take for a country like ours”.

Acclaimed black French filmmaker Alice Diop meanwhile told Liberation that having the far-right in government would be “not only a moral discomfort but a real fear.

“For people like me, it is life or death.”







Written by: Staff Writer

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