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French PM urges united front to stop far-right takeover

todayJuly 3, 2024 5

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France’s Prime Minister Gabriel Attal looks on as he leaves after the weekly cabinet meeting at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, on July 3, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)





By Stuart Williams



France’s prime minister on Wednesday urged voters to form a united front to block the far right in legislative elections, warning the anti-immigration party of Marine Le Pen was the only faction capable of winning an absolute majority.

With four days to go until the second round in the polls, France’s political future remains up in the air as the far-right National Rally (RN) party seeks to take control of government for the first time.

The RN dominated the first round of polls, presenting the party of Le Pen with the prospect of forming a government and her protege Jordan Bardella, 28, taking the post of premier in a tense “cohabitation” with President Emmanuel Macron.

But more than 200 candidates from the left and the centre this week dropped out of three-way races in the second round of the contest, aiming to prevent the RN winning the seat.

While the formation of this so-called “Republican Front” seems to have generally been a success for the government, the key question now is whether voters themselves will respond to the pleas to block the RN.

“There is one bloc that is able to have an absolute majority (in the National Assembly) and it’s the extreme right,” Attal told France Inter radio.

“On Sunday evening, what’s at stake in the second round is to do everything so that the extreme right does not have an absolute majority,” he said.

“It’s not nice for many French to have to block (the RN)… by casting a vote they did not want to,” he added.

But “it’s our responsibility to do this.”

In one extreme example of how the united front works, in one constituency in northern France the hard-left candidate pulled out to leave a straight contest between the far right and tough-talking Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin — long a hate figure for some on the left.

Former prime minister Edouard Philippe, still an influential voice in the pro-Macron camp, told TF1 television he would be voting for a Communist candidate to stop the far right in his constituency.

An absolute majority of 289 seats is needed in the 577-seat National Assembly for a party to form a government on its own.

But Le Pen has said that the RN will try, if it gets any more than 270 seats, by then winning over other lawmakers.

“At the end of this second round, either power will be in the hands of a far-right government, or power will be in parliament. I am fighting for this second scenario,” said Attal.

One option that is the subject of increasing media attention is the possibility that rather than a far-right government, France could be ruled by a broad coalition of pro-Macron centrists, the traditional right, Socialists and Greens.

But Attal was non-committal: “I did not speak about a coalition. I do not want to impose on the French a coalition that they did not choose.”

Philippe said that after the election he would support a new parliamentary majority that could span “the conservative right to the social democrats” but not include the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).

His comments were also echoed by Xavier Bertrand, a heavyweight rightwinger who served as a minister under president Nicolas Sarkozy. He called for a “provisional government” focused on “rebuilding our country”.

“The only thing that is possible is to understand that there are alternatives other than a majority with an RN government or a backroom coalition,” he told TF1.

Le Pen meanwhile angrily denounced the tactical moves and alliances.

“The political class is giving an increasingly grotesque image of itself,” she wrote on X.

Macron has kept his distance from the final phase of voting, which will reveal the outcome of his election gamble that baffled even close colleagues.

He has not spoken in public since an EU summit on Thursday.

Speaking to a cabinet meeting, he said there was “no question” that a post-election coalition could include the LFI, a participant told AFP.






Written by: Staff Writer

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